Virginia Assault Laws And Your Legal Rights

Assault and battery convictions in Virginia can lead to serious consequences. Defendants facing assault and battery charges should seriously consider whether they want to navigate the criminal justice system alone. At the Law Office of Faraji A. Rosenthall, we have represented defendants in a wide variety of criminal cases, including many people charged with assault and battery. Our experienced criminal defense lawyers may investigate your case and raise all possible defenses to decrease your charges, or in some cases, have the case dismissed entirely. Call our office at 703-934-0101 to set up a free consultation with one of our criminal defense attorneys.

Assault Definition

Assault and battery are separate crimes. The term assault often implies a physical attack, but all that is needed to be charged with an assault is threatening behavior that makes someone feel fear of imminent physical harm. Generally, verbal threats alone do not constitute an assault, but coupled with physical or threatening body language, your words may contribute to the overall fear.

Battery Definition

Battery is the physical component of “assault and battery.” Battery requires an intentional touching or use of force against someone. Common forms of battery include any type of hitting, slapping, punching, or striking someone with an object. Even if the subject of the touching was not harmed, you may still be prosecuted for battery. If you intentionally grab somebody’s arm or even touch their purse, this could constitute battery.

Special Assault and Battery Rules

Although assault and battery are fairly straightforward charges, there are many variations of this crime. Depending on the circumstances, you may face enhanced penalties for these increased charges:

Assault as a hate crime

Assault as a hate crime with an injury

Assault on a family member

Assault on law enforcement

Unlawful or malicious wounding

Strangulation

These assault laws in Virginia are more severe, with several of them being felony offenses. These aggravating circumstances typically lead to enhanced sentences, including increased fines and jail time.

Penalties for Assault and Battery

Assault and battery are often prosecuted together. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-57, simple assault and battery is prosecuted as a Class 1 misdemeanor. A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable under Virginia Code § 18.2-11 by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.

The enhanced felony assault crimes, however, usually lead to more jail time. For example, an assault on a law enforcement officer is a Class 5 felony, which can lead to six months to five years in jail. Similarly, if the assault is prosecuted as a hate crime, where the victim was injured, it can be prosecuted as a Class 6 felony.

Malicious wounding, on the other hand, is an extremely serious crime. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-51, this crime involves shooting, stabbing, cutting, or otherwise wounding someone with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill them. Malicious wounding is a Class 3 felony, which can lead to a prison sentence of five to 20 years, as well as a fine of up to $100,000.

The experienced attorneys at the Law Office of Faraji A. Rosenthall may be able to help you if you are facing assault charges in Virginia. These crimes are serious, and you consider whether you want to face the criminal justice system alone.

Defenses to Assault Charges in Virginia

Virginia assault laws provide for various defenses. Some of the most common defenses to assault charges include:

Self-Defense

Self-defense does not just apply in murder cases. If you believed you were under threat of imminent harm, and you acted to protect yourself from physical violence, you may be able to raise a successful self-defense claim. It is important to note, however, that you may only use the amount of force necessary under the circumstances. If it appears that the action leading to your assault charge was disproportionately violent or aggressive compared to your perceived threat, your self-defense theory will likely fail.

Defense of Others

You may also use physical force in defense of others. The rule for self-defense applies to a third party, as though you “step in the shoes” of the other person. If the third person could legally justify using force in self-defense, then the person defending them can as well. However, the same rule applies that the force must be proportional to the need of the situation. Similarly, the third person you are defending should not be at fault for the escalating situation. For example, if you are defending your friend in an altercation at the bar, your use of force in defense of your friend may not be justified if they ultimately started the fight.

Defense of Property

States vary in their laws regarding the “castle doctrine.” In Virginia, you are permitted to use force to stop someone from unlawfully entering your dwelling. The amount of force you may legally use, however, is a bit trickier. Some states have full “castle doctrines,” which allow the use of force, including deadly force, against anyone unlawfully entering their home. In Virginia, the law currently holds that you are allowed to use deadly force against intruders only when you reasonably believe the intruder is going to inflict serious bodily harm or kill you.

Other Constitutional Defenses

Your attorney may raise other defenses to suppress unlawfully obtained evidence. If you believe you were unlawfully stopped, arrested, or searched, any evidence obtained as a result may be subject to suppression under the exclusionary rule. Similarly, if you were not properly given your Miranda warnings or afforded the right to counsel, statements you made during interrogations may also be thrown out.

Talk to an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer

The attorneys at the Law Office of Faraji A. Rosenthall know these Virginia assault laws and their defenses inside and out. We have represented many clients facing similar charges, and our experience in the courtroom may allow us to successfully raise defenses in your assault and battery case and have your charges reduced or even dropped. Call our office at 703-934-0101 to tell us more about your case and have a free consultation.