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Types of Felony Sentences in Virginia


Virginia has six different categories of felony offenses (Class 1 through Class 6), each carrying different sets of penalties. The sentencing ranges for these classes are set forth in Virginia Code § 18.2-10. Some felony offenses, however, are “unclassified” which means that each offense has its own sentencing range. Below you can learn about the different categories as well as the different types of sentences that afforded under Virginia law.

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Any felony charge is a serious matter, and you should consult with an experienced Virginia criminal defense lawyer. Aside from potential jail time and stiff fines, a felony conviction can result in the loss of the right to vote, the right to own a firearm, and professional licenses. A felony conviction can also make it much more difficult to obtain or maintain employment. A skilled lawyer can protect your rights and navigate Virginia’s court system to help ensure that you receive the best outcome possible.


Unclassified Felonies


In Virginia, an “unclassified felony” does not have a corresponding class number. Instead, these felonies have their own special sentencing ranges. Some sex offenses, for example, are unclassified. For instance, the statute criminalizing Aggravated Sexual Battery creates a sentencing range of 1 to 20 years in prison.


Class 6 Felonies


A class 6 felony in Virginia is considered to be the least severe type of felony. In fact, a jury or a judge (without a jury) can downgrade a Class 6 felony to a misdemeanor after a trial. Examples of Class 6 Felonies include the following:

  • Aggravated assault
  • Some drug possession cases
  • Animal cruelty
  • A third DUI in 5 years
  • Reckless endangerment

A Class 6 felony carries a potential sentence of anywhere between 1 to 5 years in prison. If the charge is downgraded to a misdemeanor, the court can only impose a sentence of up to 12 months in custody.


Class 5 Felonies


A Class 5 felony carries a potential sentence of 1 to 10 years in prison. Like Class 6, a Class 5 felony can also be downgraded to a misdemeanor after a trial, and if it is downgraded, the max sentence is only 12 months in custody. Examples include:

  • Involuntary and voluntary manslaughter
  • Soliciting prostitution of someone under 16
  • Credit card forgery
  • Extortion
  • Perjury

Class 4 Felonies


A Class 4 felony carries a potential sentence of 2 to 10 years in prison. The court can also impose a fine up to $100,000. Examples of Class 4 felony include:

  • Human trafficking
  • Child Abuse
  • Shooting at a vehicle
  • Arson in unoccupied building
  • Kidnapping
  • Embezzlement

Class 3 Felonies


A Class 3 felony carries a potential sentence of 5 to 20 years in prison and fine of up to $100,000. Examples include:

  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Malicious wounding
  • Attempted poisoning

Class 2 Felonies


A Class 2 felony carries either  life in prison or a minimum of 20 years in custody. Examples of a Class 2 felony include:

  • Burglary with a deadly weapon
  • Terrorism
  • Aggravated Malicious Wounding
  • Arson

Class 1 Felonies


Class 1 felonies are subject to imprisonment for life. Moreover, an individual is not eligible for parole, good conduct, or conditional release. An example of a Class 1 felony is capitol murder.


How Much Time Will You Serve?


If you are sentenced to prison, Virginia law allows you to shave about 15% off your sentence for good behavior. This means that most people end up serving about 85% of their sentence. In cases involving mandatory minimum sentences, the answer is a bit tricker, and you should consult with your lawyer to get a better understanding of how a mandatory minimum might impact your release date.


Contact Us


Johnson/Citronberg has offices in Alexandria and Charlottesville, and we represent clients across Virginia. If you are looking for a compassionate, experienced, results-driven lawyer, give us a call at 703-684-8000.

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