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Felonies, Misdemeanors, and Civil Violations in Vermont

In the state of Vermont, offenses are classified as felonies and misdemeanors. Unlike in most states, Vermont’s criminal justice system does not have further classifications for crimes. Felonies and misdemeanors are not designated by classes. Every offense or act of violation has an accompanying penalty in its defining statute. The Vermont criminal statutes provide definitions, penalties, and sentencing guidelines for offenses in the state. The criminal cases in Vermont are adjudicated in the state's criminal courts. Individuals interested in obtaining Vermont criminal court records can submit requests to the court where the proceedings occurred.

What is a felony in Vermont? 

Felonies are offenses punishable by a maximum imprisonment term of more than two years, life imprisonment, or death (13 V.S.A. § 1). There are no general penalties for felonies; each offense has applicable terms of imprisonment and fines in its defining statute. For example, treason is a felony in Vermont, and it is punishable by the most severe penalty provided by the state statutes - death (13 V.S.A. § 3401). Aggravated murder is also classified as a felony. Persons guilty of this crime will be sentenced to imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole, probation, or any other form of relief (13 V.S.A. § 2311). However, persons charged with justifiable homicide will be held guiltless (13 V.S.A. § 2305). 

Persons charged with aiding the commission of a felony will be served the same penalty as the person who committed the crime (13 V.S.A. § 3).

What are some examples of felonies in Vermont?

Some examples of felonies in Vermont include:

  • Burglary: Any person who enters buildings or any space they are unauthorized to enter with the intention to commit a crime is guilty of burglary (13 V.S.A. § 1201). In the case of public spaces or places that are open to the public, the person is guilty of burglary if:  
    • They secretly remain in the place when it is no longer open to the public 
    • They remain in the place when they are no longer authorized to do so

If a person enters a residential building without permission and intends to commit a crime, whether anyone is there at the time of entrance or not, they are guilty of burglary. The penalties applicable to burglary are dependent on the attending circumstances or aggravating factors.

Persons convicted of burglary will be punished by prison terms of up to 15 years, fines of up to $1,000, or both imprisonment and fines. If the perpetrator committed the crime while carrying a dangerous weapon, it is punishable by a prison term of up to 20 years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both imprisonment and fine. If the burglary took place in an occupied residence, it is punishable by a prison term of up to 25 years, a fine of up to $1,000, or both imprisonment and fine. If the burglary was at a residence and the perpetrator carried a dangerous weapon during the act, it is punishable by a prison term of up to 30 years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both imprisonment and fine.

  • Assault and Robbery: If a person assaults another person, then steals their money or other properties in their presence, such a person is guilty of a felony. Like burglary, the penalties meted out to an assault and robbery offense depends on attending or aggravating circumstances. Persons convicted of assault and robbery may be sentenced to up to 10 years in state prison. If the perpetrator was armed with a dangerous weapon in the commission of the act, it is punishable by up to 15 years and no less than one year in state prison. If another person suffers bodily injury in the attempt or commission of the act, the perpetrator may be sentenced to up to 20 years in state prison (13 V.S.A. § 608). 
  • First-degree aggravated domestic assault: If a person carelessly or deliberately causes serious bodily harm to a family member or a member of their household, such a person is guilty of aggravated domestic assault. If the person is armed with a dangerous weapon in the process of committing the crime, if they use or attempt to use the weapon, they are guilty of aggravated domestic assault. First-degree aggravated domestic assault is punishable by a prison term of up to 15 years in state prison, a fine of up to $25,000, or both imprisonment and fine (13 V.S.A. § 1043). 

Other examples of felonies in Vermont include:

  • Bigamy
  • Arson 
  • Setting fires
  • Aggravated assault
  • Aggravated stalking
  • Making or having burglars’ tools
  • Hate-motivated crimes
  • Rioters injuring a building or vessel
  • Burning forests
  • Escape and attempts to escape
  • Malicious injuries caused by explosives
  • Possession of a destructive device
  • Placing a hoax device
  • Counterfeiting coin
  • Making an imitation of gold or silver
  • Counterfeiting paper money
  • Domestic terrorism
  • Kidnapping
  • Custodial interference
  • Maiming
  • Slave traffic
  • Perjury
  • Grand larceny
  • Lewd and lascivious conducts
  • Possession and use of weapons of mass destruction

Can I get a Felony Removed from a Court Record in Vermont?

Records of qualifying felonies can be removed from court records in Vermont. If a person is charged with a felony but not convicted, records relating to the arrest or citation will be sealed within 60 days if:

  • The court does not determine probable cause at the trial
  • The case is dismissed before trial
  • The person is acquitted of the crime
  • The charges are dismissed with prejudice

Persons with no convictions may file an expungement or sealing petition with the court at any time. If the court determines that sealing or expunging the records is in the interest of justice, the petition will be grated. If the record is sealed, the court will issue an order for it to be expunged eight years after the date it was sealed (13 V.S.A. § 7603).

If a person is convicted of a qualifying felony, or an offense that is no longer designated criminal by Vermont’s state statutes, they may file a motion to have their records expunged if:

  • All the conditions of the sentence, including probation and fines, have been met
  • It has been 10 years since all the conditions were completed
  • The person has not been convicted of any additional felonies in the last seven years

If the court finds that sealing the records serves the interest of justice better than expungement, the records will be sealed. Otherwise, the record will be expunged (13 V.S.A. § 7602).

Persons who are 18 - 21 years old at the time of the commission of a qualifying offense may request a sealing or expungement of their records. Their application may be filed 30 days after all conditions of their sentence have been met. The court may grant the expungement if it is found to be in the interest of justice. However, expungement orders will not be granted for records that contain both qualifying and non-qualifying offenses (13 V.S.A. § 7609). 

Felonies that are eligible for expungement include:

  • Grand larceny
  • Unlawful mischief
  • Felony related to fraud or deceit
  • Burglary (except for burglary in an occupied residence)

All offenses that have been unconditionally pardoned by the governor are also eligible to be expunged. Except where otherwise provided by statutes, all other felonies are not eligible to be expunged or sealed. If a person’s petition for expungement is denied, they must wait two years before filing another petition (13 V.S.A. § 7605). This does not apply if a shorter waiting period is authorized by the court. 

Is expungement the same as sealing court records in Vermont?

In Vermont, expungement is not the same as sealing court records. When a record is expunged, it is completely and permanently removed from all state agency databases. If it is sealed, the record is kept confidential and becomes inaccessible to the public. However, sealed records may still be available to the courts, law enforcement agencies, and other authorized persons or bodies.

When records are expunged or sealed in Vermont, the subject of the record will henceforth be treated as if they were never arrested or convicted of the offense. If the person is asked about the offense that was expunged, they may respond that they have no existing criminal records.

The court keeps special indexes of expunged and sealed records together with the accompanying order. For expungements, the index only contains:

  • The name of the person convicted
  • Their date of birth
  • The docket number
  • The offense that was expunged

The indexes are kept confidential and only accessible to authorized persons (13 V.S.A. § 7606).

How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record in Vermont?

In Vermont, felonies will stay on a person’s criminal history record permanently if they are not expunged or sealed. A felony conviction can have other consequences in addition to fines and imprisonment. These include:

  • A loss of voting rights
  • A loss of the right to bear or own
  • Ineligibility for education opportunities
  • Ineligibility for jobs that require professional licenses

Expungement and sealing of criminal records enable convicted persons to regain their civil rights and be eligible for other opportunities. 

What is a Misdemeanor in Vermont?

In Vermont, misdemeanors are less serious crimes than felonies. The state statutes designate all other criminal offenses that are not felonies as misdemeanors (13 V.S.A. §1). Offenses designated as misdemeanors are punishable by prison terms of no more than two years, fines, or both imprisonment and fines. In Vermont, misdemeanors are not graded by classes. The penalty for every offense is defined in its statute.

What are some examples of Misdemeanors in Vermont?

Examples of misdemeanors in Vermont include:

  • Home improvement fraud: if a person makes a contract with a homeowner for a home improvement project of $500 or more, they are guilty of home improvement fraud if they:
    • Fail to do parts or all of what was agreed
    • Refuse to make refunds if the owner requests
    • Make and follow through with a plan for the completion of the project
    • Use deceptive means to induce the homeowner to make a contract
    • Use deceptive means to modify the terms of the original contract
    • Misrepresent facts relating to the contract
    • Charges excessively for goods and services when there is a state of emergency

If the loss to a customer is not up to $1,000, home improvement fraud is punishable by no more than two years in prison, fines of up to $1000, or both imprisonment and fines. If the loss to a customer is up to $1000 or more, the offender may be imprisoned for up to three years, with fines of up to $5,000 (13 V.S.A. § 2029). Persons who are convicted of home improvement fraud will have their names registered in the Home Improvement Fraud Registry. 

Other misdemeanors in Vermont include:

  • Cruelty to animals
  • Voyeurism
  • Prostitution 
  • Unlawful trespass
  • Obscenity
  • Disturbing a funeral service
  • Interfering with meters
  • False alarms to public safety agencies
  • Tampering with facilities
  • False advertising
  • Burning a cross or other religious insignia
  • Criminal threatening
  • Shoplifting
  • Barratry
  • Simple assault
  • Noise in the nighttime
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Reckless endangerment
  • Stalking
  • Interference with access to emergency services

Can I Get a Misdemeanor Removed from a Record in Vermont?

Most misdemeanors can be removed from Vermont criminal history records. Non-conviction records are eligible for expungement or sealing after 60 days. If a person was arrested but not charged, or the misdemeanor charge against them is dismissed, records relating to the arrest or citation are non-conviction records. 

Conviction records may also be removed from criminal history records if the crime is eligible. Except the offender commits the crime before the age of 21, violent crimes, sex-related offenses, and prostitution cannot be expunged or sealed. To be eligible to apply for an expungement or sealing of records, the applicant must have completed all the terms of their sentence, including any probation or fines. If they have been charged with no other offenses since the completion of the sentence, they must wait five years before filing a petition of expungement. Misdemeanors that are not eligible to be expunged include:

  • Domestic assault
  • Stalking
  • Prostitution
  • Reckless endangerment
  • Violation of an abuse prevention order
  • Predicate offenses

13 V.S.A. § 7602 lays out the requirements and guidelines for the expungement of criminal history records. 

Can a DWI Be Expunged in Vermont?

Records of first-offense DWIs may be sealed in Vermont if they do cause bodily injury or death to another person. Expungement is not available for records of DWI offenses 13 V.S.A. § 7602 (g). A petition to seal DWI records will be granted if:

  • All the terms of the sentence, including fines and probation, have been met
  • 10 years have passed since all the terms of the sentence were completed
  • The person has only one DWI conviction and has not been convicted of another crime

What constitutes a Civil Violation in Vermont? 

In Vermont, civil violations are not considered criminal offenses. They include municipal ordinance violations, minor traffic violations, and fish and wildlife violations. Civil violations are not punishable by imprisonment. They are however punishable by fines, community service, forfeiture, or any penalty other than imprisonment or death.

What are some examples of Civil Violations in Vermont?

Some examples of civil violations in Vermont include:

  • Fish and wildlife violations
  • Posting utility poles
  • Posting on private property
  • Cutting ice and not fencing a hole
  • Unauthorized removal of books from a library
  • Removal of surveying monuments
  • Failure to obey lane control signals
  • Driving on roadways laned for traffic
  • Driving through a safety zone
  • Illegal turning at intersections
  • Failure to use required signals
  • Failure to yield way to pedestrians

Can Civil Violations be Expunged from a Vermont Criminal Court Record? 

Civil violations are not listed as part of the offenses that qualify for expungement in Vermont. Charges of traffic violations are sent to the department of motor vehicles (DMV), which operates driving records on a point system. The DMV adds points to driving records of persons found guilty of traffic infractions. Accumulated points may result in a loss or suspension of driving privileges.

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