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What Is the Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor in West Virginia?

In many states, criminal offenses are divided into categories based on the seriousness of the offense and the severity of the punishment. Felonies are the most serious crimes and call for incarceration in state prison for at least a year. Misdemeanors are serious offenses, but get shorter sentences in county jail. Many states divide felonies and misdemeanors into classes, from A to E, with specific sentences for each class. However, the West Virginia Code deals with each crime separately.

Examples of felony crimes under the West Virginia Code include:

  • First- and second-degree murder — First-degree murder is punishable “by confinement in the penitentiary for life.” §61-2-2. Second degree murder draws a sentence of “not less than ten nor more than forty years.” §61-2-3.
  • Malicious assault — A guilty party faces “confinement in the penitentiary not less than two nor more than ten years.”61-2-16a.
  • Manufacturing a Schedule I or II controlled substance —The penalty is a state prison sentence of “not less than one year nor more than fifteen years, or fined not more than twenty-five thousand dollars, or both.” §60A-4-401.

Examples of misdemeanor crimes under the West Virginia Code include:

  • Manufacturing a Schedule IV controlled substance —The penalty is “jail for not less than six months nor more than one year, or fined not more than five thousand dollars, or both.” §60A-4-401.
  • Assault —The penalty is jail for “not more than six months, or fined not more than one hundred dollars, or both such fine and imprisonment.” §61-2-16a.
  • First-offense domestic assault — The convicted person “shall be confined in a county or regional jail for not more than six months, or fined not more than one hundred dollars, or both.” §61-2-28.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys argue strenuously over exactly what crime should be charged under the facts of a case. In many cases, prosecutors will charge a felony but will settle for a misdemeanor conviction in a plea bargain.

The Giatras Law Firm, PLLC is a respected Charleston, West Virginia law firm known for aggressive defense representation. Call us or contact our firm online to schedule a free consultation.