What is a Class 5 Felony in VA?

According to the code of Virginia §§ 18.2-9 through §§ 18.2-11 outline the classification for both misdemeanor and felony offenses. There are four different classes of misdemeanor offenses in Virginia, which comes before felony classes. Class three and four misdemeanors offenses are punishable with fines only while class one and two misdemeanor offense carry a possible one year or six month prison sentence respectively. There are six differently felony classes with the most serious punishment being class one. Jail time differs from prison time in that prison time is controlled through the Virginia Department of Corrections at a chosen prison facility while jail time is normally served at a county facility and managed by the local police department.

The “5” number in felony 5 or any other numeric figure beside felony or misdemeanor defines the degree of seriousness of the crime that took place. A 5th class felony charge carries possible jail time but is much less severe than a felony 1 offense, which is reserved for the most serious crimes and contains most serious outcomes and penalties. In some states, some jurisdictions use “degrees” rather than “levels” to rank the significance of felonies, i.e., first degree felony or fifth degree felony.

Class 5 Felony in VA – Detailed

Class 5 felonies are “wobblers,” crimes that can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, liable on how the crime is charged and, sometimes, how the jury or the judge decides to treat a conviction. Class 5 felony offenses in Virginia are punishable by:

  • up to 12 months in jail and a fine of $2,500 (misdemeanor) maximum, or
  • Minimum one to maximum ten years in jail (when the conviction is a felony crime).

(Va. Ann. Code § 18.2-10.)

While most of the felony cases begin in the General District Court, this court doesn’t have authority or jurisdiction to resolve the felony cases. The purpose of General District Court with respect to all felony cases is to hear evidence and see proof presented by the prosecutor through an initial hearing. The initial hearing or probable cause hearing as it is sometimes called, provides the offender with an opportunity to see a part of the prosecution’s case. However, since the burden of evidence for the prosecutor’s proof is lower than the “beyond reasonable doubt” standard required for the trial, often the prosecutor will only present enough of the case for the judge to decide that there is sufficient evidence or proof.

There may be times where a person may want to waive the initial hearing; however, that is a strategic decision which should be considered between the offender and the attorney. If after an initial hearing the judge or the jury finds sufficient evidence or probable cause that the offender has been properly charged, the judge will certify the case to the Circuit Court where a Grand Jury will review the proof and evidence and return an indictment for the offense.