Vermont Criminal Law: An Overview
Are you familiar with the Vermont criminal justice system? Taking the time to familiarize yourself with your local laws may be helpful in navigating your path if you find yourself facing criminal charges.
Criminal Classifications in Vermont
What are crime classifications and what do they mean for you if you are facing criminal charges? State laws classify crimes based on severity and the range of punishment for each crime.
The state of Vermont classifies criminal actions as either misdemeanors or felonies.
Misdemeanor crimes: Misdemeanors will show on your public record in Vermont. Most misdemeanors involve traffic tickets and other non-violent crimes. Minor misdemeanors may only require a fine to be paid while more serious misdemeanors may be penalized by a fine and jail time. Under a misdemeanor, jail time is less than two years.
Vermont differs from many other states regarding misdemeanor crimes in that it doesn’t subdivide misdemeanors into classes or degrees of severity. Instead, state lawmakers have designated fixed sentences on a case-by-case basis for misdemeanor crimes.
Felonies: Crimes classified as felonies can be penalized with prison terms ranging from at least two years up to life behind bars. Vermont law designates penalties or punishments for each felony by statute. Also unique in Vermont is that only certain crimes are subdivided by severity. Examples of crimes that are subdivided by severity include murder and kidnapping.
Vermont DUI Law
Vermont has very severe laws regarding driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI). Any driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08% or higher will be charged with a DWI and will immediately have their license suspended or revoked. While a commercial driver with a BAC of .04% or more will face a DWI charge. The threshold is even lower for school bus drivers and anyone under the legal drinking age of 21 who will face a DWI at a minimum BAC of .02%.
All refusals of BAC or chemical testing carry criminal charges along with civil penalties resulting in the immediate suspension of your license. The civil action is brought by the Department of Motor Vehicles whether or not you are found guilty of drunk driving.
Vermont Marijuana Laws
The state of Vermont has decriminalized possession and personal use of weed for adults who are 21 and over. Vermont treats different possession levels differently, for example:
- One ounce or less is not treated as a criminal offense. Rather, it is treated as a civil violation or a minor traffic offense.
- Possession of one to two ounces is considered a misdemeanor and carries a penalty ranging from $500 on the first offense to $2,000 for subsequent offenses.
- Anyone caught with more than two ounces of weed will be charged with a felony. Jail time and fines for this drug crime will depend on how much weed you have on you when you are arrested by law enforcement.
- Those with qualifying medical conditions are legally allowed to possess up to two ounces of medical marijuana.
It is also important to be aware that smoking marijuana products is illegal wherever it is illegal to smoke tobacco products.
What is White Collar Crime
Have you ever heard of a Ponzi scheme? A Ponzi scheme is a type of scam to defraud investors of money and is just one example of a white-collar crime.
White collar crime is not a legally defined crime classification. Rather, crimes referred to as “white collar” most often involve acts of deceit carried out with the intention of experiencing financial gain. Examples of white-collar crimes include:
- Tax evasion
White collar crimes are referred to as such because they typically are committed by business professionals with access to or responsibility for large amounts of money. These cases may violate multiple state and federal laws and be prosecuted in state court, federal court or both.
Searching for Legal Representation
There are a few suggestions you may want to keep in mind if you find yourself needing a Vermont criminal defense attorney.
- Does the law firm offer a free consultation? Do you trust the initial legal advice they give you?
- Do any the criminal defense lawyers you are considering have experience as a trial attorney?
- What practice areas does the law firm handle?
It may be helpful to limit your search for a criminal law attorney to those attorneys who have successfully handled criminal cases similar to yours.
Know Your Rights For A Strong Criminal Defense
Educating yourself on Vermont’s criminal justice system benefits you and your criminal case. You’ll understand the laws, how they apply to you and your specific circumstances, and even more importantly, know your rights and how to protect them.