Assault is a complicated and serious charge in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, a conviction could result in jail time and fines as well as consequences that follow you for the rest of your life. If you have been charged with assault, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to explain your rights and ensure you are protected throughout your case.
When Can a Person Be Charged With Assault or Battery in Virginia?
Assault and battery are two separate offenses in Virginia. Assault refers to any behavior that is intended to hurt someone, while battery refers to an intentional action that results in an injury to another person.
You may be charged with assault if your actions:
- Intended to inflict harm. If you had the ability to inflict injury or harm and made an overt physical act that was intended to inflict bodily harm on a victim (such as throwing a punch or shoving someone), you may be arrested for assault.
- Made someone fear harm. Assault can include intentional acts that are designed to make someone fear you or reasonably fear bodily harm, such as threats, harassment, or stalking.
- Inflicted bodily harm. Although battery requires physical contact with the victim, there is no minimum standard to the bodily injuries that a victim may suffer in order to result in battery charges.
What Are the Penalties for Simple Assault or Battery?
Most simple assault crimes are charged as misdemeanors. While misdemeanor charges are generally less serious than felony charges, they can still carry jail time and high fines.
You may be charged with a misdemeanor for assaulting:
- Someone for the first time. A first offense of simple assault or battery is a Class 1 misdemeanor and carries a sentence of up to 12 months in jail and fines up to $2,500.
- A member of a minority group (without injury). If you intentionally selected a victim based on their race, gender, gender identity, disability, religion, sexual orientation, color, or national origin, a conviction of simple assault will mean imprisonment of at least six months.
- A teacher. If you are found guilty of battery against someone that you knew to be an employee of a public or private elementary or secondary school, you must serve a mandatory minimum term of 2 days in jail with a possibility of up to 15 days in jail. If the offense involved the use of a weapon or firearm prohibited on school property, a conviction will result in a mandatory minimum sentence of six months.
- A health care provider. If you are found guilty of battery against a health care provider in the service of their duties in a hospital or emergency room in a medical facility, you will be confined for 15 days with a mandatory minimum term of 2 days in jail.
Could I Be Charged With a Felony?
Some cases of assault or battery are considered particularly grievous under the law. These crimes may be charged as a felony, including:
- Domestic violence. Assault on a family member or person in your household (such as spouses, former spouses, partners, former partners, children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, or in-laws who live in the same house) may be charged as a Class 6 felony if the person has been previously convicted of two offenses against a family or household member within a period of 20 years. This crime carries a prison sentence between 1 and 5 years and fines up to $2,500.
- Hate crimes. If you intentionally selected the person who suffered bodily injury from your assault and battery due to their race, gender, gender identity, disability, religion, sexual orientation, color, or national origin, you may be charged with a hate crime. This is a Class 6 felony and carries a term of confinement of at least six months upon conviction.
- Assault on correctional officials. Virginia law makes it a criminal offense for a prisoner in a correctional facility, a probationer, or a parolee to assault correctional officers or employees. This can include judges, magistrates, law enforcement officers, care providers, employees of juvenile facilities, firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, or similar employees or visitors engaged in the performance of their public duties anywhere in the Commonwealth. This is a Class 6 felony with a mandatory minimum term of confinement of six months. A crime of battery by a prisoner on these protected employees is a Class 5 felony, punishable by 1 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
- Unlawful wounding. This offense is an aggravated form of battery and involves the intentional shooting, cutting, stabbing, or otherwise causing injury to a person with the intent to kill, maim, disable, or disfigure them. Unlawful wounding is a Class 6 felony punishable by up to five (5) years in prison and a fine up to $2500.
- Malicious wounding. Similar to unlawful wounding, this offense involves the intentional injuring of a victim with intent to maim or kill, except that the act was also committed with malice. Malicious wounding is a Class 3 felony carrying a 5- to 20-year prison sentence and up to $100,000 in fines. If the victim suffered significant impairment, termination of a pregnancy, or other permanent effects as the result of the attack, the charge may be upgraded to aggravated malicious wounding—a Class 2 felony with a potential prison sentence of 20 years to life and fines up to $100,000.
Call a Defense Attorney as Soon as Possible
If you have been arrested for assault or battery, it is vital that you get a lawyer involved in your case right away. The penalties in these cases are severe, and a conviction can result in the loss of your job, loss of gun rights, revocation of professional licenses, and the loss of child custody.
Our legal team can examine the factors in your case to determine which defenses are available to you, whether you qualify for reduced sentencing, and other ways to protect your future. Contact our office today to learn your next steps.