Thomas Soldan on Consequences of Misdemeanors and Felonies
Virginia criminal attorney Thomas Soldan answers questions about the consequences of misdemeanors and felonies in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
What are the punishments for misdemeanors and felonies?
Thomas Soldan: The majority of misdemeanors that I get involved with, whether it’s a DUI, reckless driving, assault, larceny, or another offense, are class one misdemeanors. Class one misdemeanors are the most severe misdemeanors in Virginia, and are punishable by a statutory maximum of one year in the local jail, a $2,500 fine, and, if it’s a driving offense, there may be a loss of license for six or 12 months, depending on the severity of the offense. Those are all statutory maximums, and Virginia is somewhat unique in that we don’t have different classes of misdemeanors that have a recommended a grade, like a grade of assault. Assault is always a class one misdemeanor, so it’s always punishable by up to 12 months in jail. The code only lets us know what the maximums are. A class two misdemeanor is up to six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. Class three and four misdemeanors are fines only. Then, we move on to felony offenses, of which there are classes one through six, one being severe and six being the least severe. A class six felony could be a less severe, fraud-related felony, and is punishable by one to five years in the state penitentiary, up to 12 months in jail, up to a $2,500 fine, or a combination thereof. If someone is sentenced to 12 months they can also get a fine. If they get prison time, though, they cannot get a fine. For a class five is one to 10 years in the state penitentiary, with the same flex penalty as far as 12 months in jail and a fine. They become more severe as they move into the scope of burglaries, robberies and then rape, murder. Those types of crimes have a different scale starting from one to 20, one to 40, five to 40, up to potential life in prison. Virginia is also a capital punishment state.
What are the long-term consequences of a felony conviction?
Thomas Soldan: The immediate consequences could be imprisonment or incarceration, a fine, and substantial court costs. If it’s a drug-related offense, another immediate consequence would be a mandatory six-month loss of license or driving privileges in the Commonwealth for out-of-state drivers. That goes for any drug offense in Virginia. As far as long-term consequences, felonies in Virginia don’t go away. They cannot be expunged. They are on your permanent record, meaning they’re going to be in the NCIC criminal database. They’re going to be found on background checks for jobs. Having that show up in a background check may have different implications for student loans or federal programs, etc. In addition, anyone convicted of a felony loses their right to possess a firearm, in Virginia. That is federal law. They also lose the right to vote. They may have the opportunity to have their voting rights restored later on, depending on the nature of the felony offense. In a separate proceeding, they may also have the ability to have their gun rights restored. There is also the connotation of being a convicted felon to consider.
What are the long-term consequences of a misdemeanor conviction?
Thomas Soldan: If someone is found guilty of a misdemeanor, that will always be on their record. Virginia does not have an expungement statute for convictions. The record is eventually removed from the general court, but that is so that the courthouse doesn’t become simply a vault of records. It’s always on a person’s criminal record if they are found guilty of a misdemeanor offense, as it is with a felony. It never goes away. It is also a question that potential employers can ask. Federal government jobs are popular in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area, and a common question they ask is “Have you ever been convicted of a misdemeanor offense?” If someone answers “yes” to that question, they’re going to have to explain and provide more information. That’s a tough thing to have on a permanent record, even as a misdemeanor, because they are going to have to answer questions that they may not be comfortable answering.