In Virginia, the main difference between misdemeanors and felonies is the seriousness of the offense. Virginia is governed by a combination of constitutional law and common law offenses. Under common law, the felonies were more serious offenses, punishable sometimes even by death, and misdemeanors were minor offenses that were punishable by a decided fine.
Since 1950, Virginia has had an organized criminal justice system, and in current code of Virginia, there are 2 main divisions in the various offenses; felonies and misdemeanors. The main difference between misdemeanors and felonies, in addition to the harshness of the penalties, now is how they are handled and where they are handled.
Misdemeanor offenses are generally handled in general district court and can then be appealed to the Circuit Court. Felonies offenses may originate in general district court or Circuit Court, but the ultimate finding of being guilty or not guilty is going to happen in the latter court, always. The penalty structure for both offense is also different. Maximum one year of prison time in local is part of Misdemeanor class 1, which is the highest and the most severe classification in Misdemeanor category, and felonies are punishable by carrying prison terms with the Department of Corrections and not the local jail. Felonies contain the most severe and serious penalties; lifelong jail time and a huge amount of fine can be imposed on the person who is charged with the felony offense. Those are the main and common differences between felonies and misdemeanors. Serious offenses in Virginia are felonies. They include more serious types of assault, property offenses of burglary or robbery, controlled substance possession, destruction of property over $1,000, and larceny of anything valued over $200. Those are all felony offenses, in addition to murder and manslaughter, etc. The misdemeanor offenses are everything from very serious traffic offenses to marijuana possession to assault.
• Felonies. In Virginia, as in many other states, felony charges are levied for the most severe crimes. A felony offense is punishable by at least a year in prison, and can include the death penalty, as well as life imprisonment. If convicted of a felony offense, the sentence will be carried out in a state correctional facility, opposed to a Virginia county jail. There are six classes of felony offense in Virginia. The most serious is a Class one felony; the punishment for this crime is the death penalty or imprisonment for life. A Class 6 felony is punishable by up to five years in prison.
• Misdemeanors. There are 4 categories of misdemeanor offense in Virginia. Any jail sentences associated with a misdemeanor crime are carried out in a city jail or a county instead of a state correctional facility. There are four classification of misdemeanor crimes in Virginia, Class one being the most serious and Class four being the least. While a Class one misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,500 max, a Class four is punishable by a fine up to $250 max.