Differences Between Misdemeanor & Felony Assault In Virginia

Published On: May 16, 2024

Differences Between Misdemeanor & Felony Assault In Virginia

Imagine finding yourself in a situation where you’re facing allegations of assault. You may feel scared and unsure of where to turn. After all, dealing with the intricacies of the legal system and the potential consequences of the charges against you can be challenging.

A Criminal Defense Attorney can provide invaluable insights into the situation you may be facing. Through their help, you’ll gain a clearer understanding of your charges and your options. From investigating the allegations to building a solid strategic defense, they can work with you to get the best possible outcome for your case. 

Exploring Assault Laws In Virginia With A Criminal Defense Attorney

How A Criminal Defense Attorney Handles Assault Charges

In Virginia, the legal landscape encompasses a variety of offenses, with assault standing out as a significant concern. Assault charges can vary from simple threats to more serious acts involving physical violence. Any action perceived as intending to cause harm or instill fear in another individual can result in assault charges and subsequent legal ramifications, regardless of severity.

There are two primary categories: simple assault and assault and battery. Simple assault involves any intentional act that places another person in fear of immediate danger or offensive contact. This offense may not necessitate direct physical contact; the mere attempt or threat to cause harm suffices.

Assault and battery, on the other hand, encompasses the unlawful and deliberate touching or striking of another person against their will. It can also cover acts that cause bodily harm to another without their consent. This can include scratching, kicking, slapping, pushing, punching, or throwing any physical object at another individual.

As a state that champions law and order within its jurisdiction, Virginia maintains a classification system that distinguishes assault charges into misdemeanors and felonies. The role of a criminal defense attorney proves invaluable in understanding the differences between such charges.

Critical Differences Between Misdemeanors & Felony

While both are considered offenses, misdemeanor and felony assault charges are not the same. Here are the key differences between them.

Severity Of The Offense

Misdemeanor assault typically involves less severe forms of physical harm or threats compared to felony assault. They may include actions such as minor physical altercations, simple assaults, or threats of violence that result in minimal or no bodily harm. 

Felony assault, on the other hand, often involves more severe acts of violence resulting in significant physical injury, serious harm, or even death. Offenses like maliciously causing bodily injury can fall under this category. Additionally, committing assault toward someone because of their race, gender, religious conviction, or color can be considered a felony.


The penalties for misdemeanor and felony assault charges differ substantially. Misdemeanor assault convictions generally result in lighter penalties, such as fines, probation, community service, or short-term imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year. 

Felony assault convictions carry much harsher penalties. These include longer prison sentences, substantial fines, and the possible forfeiture of certain rights, such as the right to possess firearms.

Legal Process

The two crime classifications also vary in terms of the legal process. Misdemeanor cases are typically heard in lower courts, such as district or municipal courts, and may involve more straightforward legal procedures. Meanwhile, felony cases often proceed to higher courts, such as circuit courts, and may involve more complex legal proceedings, including grand jury indictments and trials.

Long-Term Consequences

A misdemeanor conviction might result in a criminal record, affecting housing, employment, and other aspects of a person’s life. However, felony convictions carry more severe criminal offenses and can have long-lasting outcomes on a person’s criminal record and future opportunities. Convicted offenders may lose civil rights, such as voting or possessing firearms.

Learning the critical differences between misdemeanor and felony assault charges establishes a framework for understanding them individually. Each is intricate and entails nuances that can either strengthen or weaken the allegations against you.

Misdemeanor Assault Penalties

Misdemeanors are typically punished with fines and up to one year in county jail. They are commonly handled in general district courts except for offenses involving a family member, juvenile offenders, or cases directly indicted in the circuit court.

The state’s misdemeanor classification system comprises five levels, each associated with different penalties. This categorization clarifies offenses’ severity and helps ensure that penalties are proportionate to the nature of the offense.

  • Class 1 Misdemeanor: Assault and Battery are common Class 1 misdemeanors. This offense can lead to significant consequences, including a fine over $2,500 and imprisonment for up to 12 months.
  • Class 2 Misdemeanor. Offenses classified here are less severe than Class 1 but still warrant penalties. Convictions for Class 2 misdemeanors can lead to confinement in jail for up to six months and/or a fine of up to $1,000. 
  • Class 3 Misdemeanor. These offenses are less severe than Class 2 and typically result in monetary fines rather than jail time. Convictions for this classification may lead to penalties of up to $500.
  • Class 4 Misdemeanors. This category represents the least serious misdemeanor offenses. Class 4 misdemeanor convictions result in fines of up to $250, with no associated jail time. 
  • Unclassified Misdemeanors. Misdemeanors categorized as unclassified, often denoted as “Class U,” come with specific restrictions on jail sentences and fines. These consequences differ depending on the offense but typically range between those for Class 2 and Class 3 Misdemeanors. 

It’s important to note that simple assault and assault and battery are typically designated as Class 1 misdemeanors. However, that is not always the case. The presence of aggravating factors can quickly escalate the case to a felony.

Felony Assault Penalties

Felony assault charges involve grave offenses that entail deliberately causing substantial bodily harm or employing lethal weapons with the intent to injure. They are categorized into six classes based on severity, each with different penalties.

  • Class 1 Felonies. These offenses represent the most severe felony charges. They are also punishable by imprisonment for life and a fine of up to $100,000. 
  • Class 2 Felonies. Offenses classified as Class 2 felonies carry penalties of imprisonment for life or for any term not less than 20 years, along with a fine of up to $100,000. 
  • Class 3 Felonies. Convictions for Class 3 felonies result in five to 20 years imprisonment and a fine as high as $100,000. 
  • Class 4 Felonies. These offenses lead to imprisonment for not less than two years nor more than ten years, along with a fine of up to $100,000.
  • Class 5 Felonies. Crimes categorized as Class 5 entail a prison sentence spanning from one to 10 years. Alternatively, individuals may face confinement in jail not exceeding 12 months and/or a fine of no more than $2,500.
  • Class 6 Felonies. Convictions for Class 6 felonies result in a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than five years. It can lead to a maximum of 12 months in jail and/or a fine of no more than $2,500. 

While assaults and battery generally fall under misdemeanors, they can escalate to felonies in specific circumstances. Moreover, assaulting someone based on protected characteristics like gender, religion, or race, resulting in bodily harm, can be a Class 6 felony.

If proven, such charges may lead to fines and imprisonment, so seeking guidance from qualified legal representatives is essential. They can provide invaluable assistance and support when facing criminal charges. 

Misdemeanor Vs. Felony Differences Explained By A Criminal Defense Attorney

Seek Guidance From The Irving Law Firm

If you are facing assault allegations, know that you don’t have to deal with the intricacies of criminal law alone. Some attorneys and law firms possess the knowledge and experience necessary in the legal process. They can offer clarity on legal rights and responsibilities, explain the potential consequences of your actions, and help you make informed decisions about your case. 

The Irving Law Firm in Virginia has a team of professional criminal defense attorneys dedicated to providing high-quality legal representation and personalized guidance. They can advocate on your behalf, represent your interests in negotiations and court proceedings, and work towards achieving the best possible outcome for your case.


Facing assault allegations can be daunting, but a criminal defense attorney can offer invaluable support. Assault charges vary from simple assault to assault and battery, each with distinct legal consequences. Misdemeanor assault involves lesser harm and carries lighter penalties like fines and short jail terms, while felony assault entails serious harm and longer prison sentences. 

The severity of charges is crucial, as misdemeanors can range from Class 1 to unclassified, while felonies vary from Class 1 to Class 6, with penalties escalating accordingly. Therefore, seeking guidance from experienced firms like The Irving Law Firm can help you handle the complexities of the legal system and strive for the most favorable outcome.

John Irving brings a working knowledge of all aspects of the legal process to any case or client with his extensive and eclectic legal background. In 1997, John received his undergraduate bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Shortly after graduation he began work as a fraud investigator for the City of New York. John handled thousands of cases involving welfare and housing fraud. Following this position, he was recruited to and employed by the Prince William County Police Department where he exhibited his superior abilities and received several commendations and awards.

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      Disclaimer: Contacting us using the website's forms and phone does not create an attorney-client relationship.