Facing criminal charges is confusing in any situation. But when a criminal charge comes back with a “Class U" on it, you can feel extra lost about what it means and what kind of penalties you may face.
What Is a Class U Felony?
“Class U" felonies are unclassified. Any crime that doesn't make sense in the typical felony classes will be referred to as a “Class U."
Virginia does not use the typical letter system and instead labels felonies as a Class 1-6 felony. But they still use the letter “u" when it comes to Class U felonies.
Find the Punishment for Your Specific Class U Felony
In Class 1-6 felony cases, a judge can decide how harshly to punish someone. There are guidelines and ranges for penalties, or the judge can choose to use whatever punishment they think is appropriate.
However, a Class U felony has the punishment listed in its statute. This means you can look the penalties up and have an idea of what you'll be facing in court.
To look up a statute, go to your state's legal code (click here for Virginia) and follow these steps:
- Find the section that references criminal, crimes or charge. For example, Virginia's section is called Title 18.2. Crimes and Offenses Generally
- Look at the chapters to see which one is closest to your charges. For example, choosing Chapter 4. Crimes Against the Person
- Select the article that lists your charge. For example: Article 5. Robbery
- Find the section that references punishment or penalty. For example: VA Code, Section 18.2-58. How punished
- This will show you how the crime is defined, if they charge it as a felony, and the punishment. For example: Penalty is state prison for five years
Typically, the penalty for a Class U felony is 0 to 20 years in prison.
NOTE: There are many nuances to each case, so you should never make assumptions or decisions based on what you read. Looking up the statute is just the first step in getting informed.
What Are the Felony Classes in Virginia?
Class U felonies are serious crimes, but they don't fall under a typical felony category. In general, the six common felony classes are:
- Class 1 or Class A (violent crimes)
- Class 2 or Class B (crimes against person or being in possession of something illegal)
- Class 3 or Class C (less serious versions of the crimes listed above)
- Class 4 or Class D (victimless crimes that are not dangerous or violent)
- Class 5 or Class E (either a felony or misdemeanor depending on the circumstances)
- Class 6 (least serious crimes – can be a felony or a misdemeanor)
Examples of Crimes That Fall Under Class U Felonies
Examples of Class U felonies in Virginia include:
- Grand larceny
- Robbery or carrying a dangerous weapon
- Drug charges like possession, distribution, or selling of controlled substances
- Marijuana possession over five pounds
- Large amounts of drugs in your possession
- Growing marijuana
- Three or more felony marijuana violations
These cases can easily be felonies or misdemeanors, so it always depends on the specific situation.
How the Process Works With CPS Cases
Child Protective Services (CPS) may get involved in a case if the felony involved harming a child, or after you are convicted of any Class U felony and you have children.
If the crime was violent or involved a dangerous weapon, then CPS may take your children away from you or prevent you from seeing them. If the crime was victimless, you might still get to see your kids.
CPS and the judge overseeing your case will determine visitation schedules and if your children can see you in prison.
Scenarios or Situations That Help Cases Close Faster
If you are facing a Class U felony, you need professional legal help. There is no way to find a DIY resolution or effectively defend yourself in court for a situation this serious. Your attorney is your best hope to:
- Tell your side of the story
- Work to lessen the charges
- Show mistakes made by the police or accomplices
- Show your cooperation
- Fight for a plea bargain
- Work to get you on probation after you serve some jail time
- Show CPS you are a good parent who deserves visitation with your kids
These types of tactics can help close a case faster and work toward a better solution for you.
Felonies are serious and the punishments are scary. Don't let a confusing “Class U" charge stop you from getting informed and making the best choices for your future.