Virginia Assault & Battery Lawyer

Virginia Assault & Battery Lawyer

Being charged with a crime such as assault or battery must be taken seriously, as there are many risks involved if convicted, including incarceration and being labeled as violent. If an assault and battery is committed upon certain types of individuals, including judges, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, and other protected persons, the charge may be elevated to a felony and a mandatory jail or prison sentence may be required.

The risk of being labeled a felon may impact your ability to find employment and can even impact your ability to apply for apartments. Working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer is essential to obtain the best possible outcome in your case. 

A criminal defense lawyer from Select Law Partners PLLC is standing by to provide you with strong representation. Continue reading to learn more about your Virginia assault and battery charge and how a lawyer can help. 

Assault

Assault is an intentional act toward another that creates apprehension of an imminent harmful or offensive contact. Importantly, resulting physical contact is not required to prove an assault.

To put it simply, assault is placing someone in fear of immediate harmful contact. Also, assault is sometimes referred to as “simple assault.” Irrespective of the label, the alleged conduct involves the placing of another in fear as a result of intentional conduct. 

Assault may be charged separately from battery, though assault and battery are often charged together. 

Battery

In its most basic definition, battery is the intentional offensive or harmful touching of another without legal excuse or justification (such as self-defense). For a contact to qualify as battery, the contact itself doesn’t have to be substantial, it only needs to be considered offensive. In Virginia, a battery charge requires that the contact with the victim is intentional.

For example, if a person riding a bus intentionally pushed their shoulder into the chest of another passenger intending to harm or offend that person, they would be guilty of a battery. However, if a person riding a bus accidentally pushed their shoulder into the chest of another passenger because the bus suddenly braked, not intending any harm or offense, they would not be guilty of a battery. Depending upon context, tossing a glass of wine into someone’s face could be a battery.

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Simple Assault vs. Assault and Battery

Under Virginia law, a “simple assault” is just that, the “assault” portion of the crime. As noted above, the assault is the apprehension of harmful or offensive physical contact, not the contact itself.

An example of this could be a person balling up their fist at someone, drawing it back, then throwing a punch that intentionally misses the potential target. The person throwing the punch did not intend to make contact with the other person, but did intend for the other person to be placed in fear of being hit, resulting in an assault. 

An assault and battery is the full, completed act: the apprehension of offensive or harmful physical contact, and actual contact resulting due to the intent of the aggressor.  In this scenario, the person balls their fist, and throws a punch intending to hit their target. The target is then hit, or touching in an offensive manner. 

Another example of assault and battery of offensive contact may be verbally harassing and threatening harm to someone, then spitting on them, which qualifies as an act of battery because the “contact” of spitting on someone is deemed offensive.

Domestic Assault and Battery

Domestic assault, or assault and battery of a family member, is one of the more common assault and battery offenses in Virginia. Common domestic violence crimes include abduction, malicious wounding, and strangulation, along protective order violations and stalking.

Emergency protective orders are often issued in these cases, which prevents the assailant from having any contact with the victim for three days, which may allow the victim time to seek additional court protective orders. This means that in addition to an arrest for assault and battery of a family member, the person charged is also unable to return to their own home for a number of days. 

Unlawful Wounding v. Malicious Wounding

Virginia Code Section 18.2-51 notes that a person who stabs, cuts, or wounds another person with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill may be found guilty of a Class 3 felony. When the act was unlawful but without the intent to maim, disable, disfigure, or kill, then they may be found guilty of a class 6 felony.

The difference between the two might sound relatively similar, however the punishment varies greatly depending on how the prosecution, the judge, and the jury interpret the facts and circumstances of your case.

Your Virginia criminal defense lawyer will argue on your behalf to explain your motivations and why they do not align with the more serious versions of assault or assault and battery. 

Penalties and Classifications of Assault and Assault and Battery Charges in Virginia

The penalties for assault or assault and battery in Virginia can range significantly depending upon the unique facts and circumstances of the situation, and the crime that the prosecution is charging you with.

A complete list of the types of charge, their classification, and required confinement terms as outlined in Virginia Code Section 18.2-57 are outlined below.

*As used below, “hate crime” is when the victim is intentionally selected due to their race, religious conviction, gender, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, color, or national origin.

Simple Assault

A Class 1 misdemeanor can lead to a maximum fine of $2,500 and up to 1 year in jail.

Assault and Battery

A Class 1 misdemeanor with the same penalties as a simple assault, a fine up to $2,500 or jail time up to 1 year.

Assault as a Hate Crime

Class 1 misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $2,500 and maximum imprisonment of 1 year, but with a 6 month minimum mandatory sentence. This particular crime is one that turns entirely on the motivation of the person being charged, and the charge itself may not reflect the true motivations of the person charged. 

For example, if two individuals have a disagreement over a game of billiards and one punches the other, the race, gender, sexual orientation, or other protected class status of the person hit is irrelevant, unless the motivation behind the attack also involved their race, gender, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristic.

This can be a difficult concept for the jury to understand, and without an effective criminal defense attorney you run the risk of a 6 month minimum sentence in jail for an assault that may have involved no hate that is legally punishable. 

Domestic Assault

A first offense comes with a fine of up to $2,500 and up to one year in jail. If someone commits a second offense within 20 years, they could be sentenced for up to five years in jail.

The inability to return home for three days following the charge and arrest can be especially difficult to manage for some households, and timely responding to the charges is important to support the outcome. 

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Assault or Assault and Battery on Police/Government Employee

This is a Class 6 felony that can result in a fine up to $2,500, and a term of incarceration between a minimum of 6 months and maximum of 5 years.

Assault and Battery on Teacher/School Official

15 days to 1 year in jail. If weapons are involved on school grounds, the minimum sentence increases to 6 months. The courts are taking assaults on school grounds increasingly seriously in the modern environment, and the charges must be taken seriously. 

Assault and Battery on a Health Care Provider

The minimum of 15 days and maximum of 1 year imprisonment applies, similar to assault and battery on teachers.

Your criminal defense attorney from Select Law Partners PLLC challenges the prosecution’s case at every step in the process, requiring that they meet the necessary standard of proof while trying to negotiate a dismissal or the best deal possible on your behalf. 

Possible Defense Strategies against Assault and Battery Charges

To prove an assault or an assault and battery, the intent of the person being charged with the crime must be proven. Even for a simple assault charge, the person being charged must have intended for the supposed victim to fear a threat of imminent physical or offensive harm. To clarify, the focus will be on the motivation of the party being charged, not what the purported victim felt.

For example, if a person believes that everyone wishes them harm, they cannot then charge everyone with assault. Rather, an individual must intend for a specific person to feel the threat of harm due to specific actions that they intended to lead to that result. Your criminal defense attorney will ensure that the jury understands this distinction when your case is tried.

In addition to the element of intent, there are common self-defense strategies that may be employed to create sufficient doubt of your intent to protect you from conviction and possible dismissal of your case.

Consent

One of the most often asserted and successful defenses to an assault or an assault and battery charge is consent. When a party has consented to engage in a particular legal interaction or activity that might include harmful physical contact, then they have consented to any contact that might result. If contact does result, then the party that has consented cannot then claim that the contact was offensive or harmful, as they were notified of the potential, and accepted the risk. 

Playing a sport like hockey or riding on a crowded bus will generally mean that the participants have consented to bodily contact that could be assault and battery without prior consent. Another example is when you sign a waiver before going skydiving in which you consent to the risks.

Your criminal defense attorney will carefully review the unique facts and circumstances associated with your case to consider whether this defense might apply to your charges. 

Self Defense

When you make bodily contact that could be construed as harmful or offensive against another person to prevent harm to yourself or another, you could successfully assert “self defense” against your assault or assault and battery charges.

Under the Virginia self defense laws, the non-aggressor is the person who used force in defense of themselves. The non-aggressor may be justified in their use of force against another person when they have a reasonable belief that the force is necessary to protect themselves against an imminent use of unlawful force from another person.

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To win their case, the prosecution must convince the judge and jury that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that each element of the crime can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, including your internal motivations for committing the crime. Given the difficulty, if not possibility, of reading one’s mind, the prosecution faces an uphill battle against your criminal defense lawyer who can explain your reasons to the judge and jury to protect against the charges being leveled against you. 

Why hire Select Law Partners PLLC?

The skill and ability of your attorney can determine the difference between a dismissal of your case or a guilty verdict that leads to confinement and being labeled a felon. The prosecution is tasked with proving that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on each and every element of the crime that you’re being charged with, and your defense is tasked with challenging this every step of the way. 

With a dedicated criminal defense attorney from Select Law Partners PLLC on your side, the prosecution will know that they won’t be able to take an “easy win” on your case. They will have to work hard, and if they have any doubt that they can successfully prosecute their case against our aggressive defense, they’ll have to drop your charges or make a deal. We’re a client-focused firm that puts together the best case possible individually for each of our clients, as no two cases are alike, and we put in the time and effort to treat them as such.

Not all attorneys know how to win a case in court, and not all attorneys understand when to negotiate a good deal. The only way to learn this is through experience. Select Law Partners PLLC and our team of criminal defense attorneys have decades of combined experience helping clients like you achieve the ideal outcome in their case.

Give us a call at  (855) 541-4867, or visit our site to schedule a consultation so we can get started on your case now.