Domestic violence convictions carry serious consequences in Virginia. If you were arrested and charged with assault and battery against a family or household member, you might be confused about the charges. It is important that you understand why you were charged so that you can adequately defend yourself. Assuming you were unjustly arrested and that the charges will just go away would be a big mistake.
What Is Considered Domestic Assault in Virginia?
Generally speaking, any violent crime committed against a spouse or former spouse, co-parent, roommate, family member, step-family members, or intimate partner will be charged under the domestic violence statute, which carries more severe penalties than an assault against a non-family or household member. If you are charged with domestic violence, but the person you had an altercation with does not fall into one of these categories, that could be a legitimate defense against the more serious charges.
In Virginia, the following types of assault against a family member or roommate will be charged as domestic violence:
- Assault. Simple assault involves a threat or attempt to harm someone without physical contact. In other words, if you have the means to harm someone and threaten them with violence, or you attempt to physically harm someone but fail, you could be charged with assault.
- Assault and battery. Even if there is no significant injury as a result, making physical contact with someone in an angry or vengeful manner is considered assault and battery. Physical contact could include hitting, kicking, slapping, or throwing an object at the person. The key to this charge is the manner in which the contact occurred. Grabbing a person’s arm to save them from harm, for example, would not be considered battery.
- Malicious wounding. Wounding a person by any means—hitting, cutting, shooting, stabbing, etc.—with malice can result in a more serious charge of malicious wounding. For this charge to stick, the victim must have suffered an injury, and the prosecutor must be able to prove that you acted with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill.
- Aggravated malicious wounding. If the victim suffers permanent significant physical impairment as a result of the assault, you could be charged with aggravated malicious wounding, a Class 2 felony. This charge is actually more serious than attempted murder in Virginia because it requires that the victim was seriously injured, where attempted murder does not.
- Strangulation. Intentionally grabbing a person by the neck in a manner that impedes their blood circulation or respiration can be charged as strangulation, a Class 6 felony.
This is not a complete list of potential bodily harm charges in Virginia, but many domestic violence charges fall under one of these categories. It’s important to understand that these charges become more serious and carry more severe penalties when you are accused of committing them against a family or household member.
Violating a Protective Order
When an arrest is made for domestic violence, the judge will issue a 72-hour protective order for the accuser. This means that if you were charged with domestic violence—even if it is your first arrest—you are immediately prohibited from contacting the alleged victim for three days. It doesn’t matter if you believe you are completely innocent, and it doesn’t matter if the accuser is your wife or girlfriend. If you learn nothing else from this article, understand that violating a protective order is a criminal offense and, even if you are cleared of domestic violence charges, you will still face this charge. In fact, if you are in jail following your arrest and you make contact with the accuser in violation of the protective order, you could give up any chance of getting out on bail.
Contact Our Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Right Away
The biggest mistake we see our domestic violence clients make is not taking the charges seriously from the beginning. If you find yourself facing an accusation of domestic violence, contact us before you say or do anything that could harm your defense.