Though simple assault in Virginia is a criminal misdemeanor, Section 18.2-57(c) of the Code of Virginia classifies assault and battery against a law enforcement officer as a Class 6 felony. These crimes are pursued especially aggressively by prosecutors as crimes against law enforcement officials are viewed as particularly egregious. In order to avoid suffering the long-term negative consequences associated with a conviction, if you have been accused of assault on a police officer (APO), contact a Virginia APO attorney who can provide you with more information regarding the charges and the best way to fight them.
In order to be convicted of assault on a police officer, the state must prove that:
Under this statute, assault is defined by the criminal code as an “overt act” that is either intended to do bodily harm to the law enforcement official or put that police officer in fear of imminent bodily harm. The defendant also needs to have “present ability” to cause such harm. This means that in the police officer’s mind, you have the ability to make good on your overt physical threat. If the assault is followed by any physical contact, it can be charged as assault and battery.
If you are convicted for this offense in Virginia, your punishment could include a prison term of one to five years (or discretionary confinement in jail for six to 12 months) and/or a fine of up to $2,500. It should be noted that in addition to these potential harsh punishments, any conviction includes a mandatory minimum six month jail sentence. If the officer is significantly injured, the courts tend to be more severe when handing down sentences, which means you could end up serving the maximum prison term.
Given the broad spectrum of actions that could be construed as assault, even an act as simple as using your finger to emulate a pistol and pointing it at a police officer can be sufficient grounds to be charged with APO. Spitting on a police officer can also lead to charges of assault and battery. Further, police officers are not the only officials that are covered by this statute; it also includes judges, firefighters, correctional officers, and emergency medical technicians (EMTs).
According to 18 U.S. Code Section 111, it is also a crime to forcibly assault a federal law enforcement officer who is performing his or her duties or who formerly served as a federal law enforcement officer. Federal law enforcement officer refers to “any officer, agent, or employee of the United States authorized by law or by a Government agency to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of any violation of federal criminal law.”
Simple assault can result in the guilty perpetrator receiving up to one year in a federal prison. If assault and battery was committed, the penalty includes a fine and/or imprisonment of up to eight years, though there are a few special circumstances that could increase that time of incarceration even more. If the suspect of the assault had a deadly or dangerous weapon and used it to inflict harm on the officer, the penalty is a fine or imprisonment of not more than 20 years, or both.
Though assaulting any law enforcement officer is a serious crime, there are some effective defenses against these charges that a seasoned criminal defense attorney has at their disposal. If you are facing charges of assault on a police officer, you need someone with experience and know-how to advocate your defense. We have experience fighting criminal charges in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and he is ready and willing to fight to protect your rights and help you avoid the negative impact a conviction would have on your life and your future. If you, a friend, or a family member has been charged with this serious offense, contact our law office now for a free case evaluation in which you can learn more about your options for a solid defense.
Patrick Woolley Attorney At Law