What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

Felonies are major crimes and misdemeanors are lesser crimes. Felonies are classified from Class 1 to Class 6 in descending order for purposes of sentencing. Online access to felony classification and punishments as specified in the Virginia Code can be found at Section 18.2-10. 

Online access to misdemeanor classification and punishments as specified in the Virginia Code can be found at Section 18.2-11. 

Misdemeanor sentences are served in jails and regional detention centers. Sentences given for jail sentences are stated in months, and actual time served is 50 percent of the active sentence imposed. Felony sentences are usually served in the Virginia Department of Corrections prisons and related facilities. Calculation of time to be actually served is 85 percent of the active sentence. Any time spent incarcerated while waiting for trials or hearings is credited toward your active sentence. 

Suspended sentences remain suspended unless there are subsequent conditions or arrests making them vulnerable to show cause hearings wherein they can be revoked and made active. 

If you have been arrested and know the Code section your arrest was based upon, you can search the Code online by the section number, and learn more about what you are facing at Virginia Code Section 18.2. 

Online Federal court classification of felonies and misdemeanors can be found at Cornell’s US Code outline. 

Be aware that the commonwealth and the federal government are two separate sovereign entities, which means that each can charge you for committing the same crime, if the offense is outlined in both codes and chargeable. That would not qualify as “double jeopardy,” which under the US Constitution means you cannot be charged twice for the same crime (by the same sovereign entity). 

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