Thomas Soldan On Assault Charges
The following is a transcript from an interview with Thomas Soldan Attorney at Law. This excerpt concerns assault charges in virginia.
What are the different types of assault that can be charged in Virginia?
Thomas Soldan: Our neighbors in Maryland and DC have different categories or classes of assault and degrees of assault. In Virginia, there is assault and battery and then there are more serious felony offenses such as malicious wounding, aggravated malicious wounding, and sexual battery. General assault, for example when a person is pushed, punched, slapped, or scratched, falls under the category of simple assault. That is covered in Virginia Code 18.2-57. Simple assault is a class one misdemeanor. If the person that’s injured is a special class of person, it could be considered a different type of assault. One of those special classes is covered under Section 18.2-57.2, which is assault on a family member. A family member does not necessarily have to be a husband, wife, sister, brother, or even somebody you’re related to by blood. The definition is very broad in that section. It includes people related by blood and people related by marriage, but also people who are in a relationship and people who reside in the same household but are unrelated.
Who charges a person with these different kinds of assault?
Thomas Soldan: In the most common scenarios, an officer responds to the call, figures out that it’s an assault case, gathers some facts, sees that the people are related, and charges the person with assault on a family member, which is commonly also referred to as domestic violence. If they figure out that the people are related, they charge them with that code section. However, the officer may, at their discretion, charge a more serious offense depending on the nature of the injuries. Some of those more serious offenses include unlawful wounding, which is a felony; malicious wounding, which is a felony; and aggravated malicious wounding, which is also a felony. Those can be determined either at the time of arrest or after a prosecutor gets involved and looks at the facts of the case. Typically, and this is not the case for every jurisdiction, but quite often the officer or prosecutor will err on the side of caution and overcharge the person to begin with, and then hear arguments on why the charge should be reduced at a later time. They want to make sure that if the person being charged is a danger to themselves, the community, or the victim, that proper precautions are taken. They won’t release someone that could potentially hurt other people. It’s also easier procedurally to reduce the charges later than it is to increase them.
At what point does an assault charge become a felony?
Thomas Soldan: Assault as a misdemeanor offense is a very basic type of assault. Cases such as aggravated assault, malicious wounding, or cases where there might be an object involved, like a weapon, or some sort of malicious intent, could be aggravated to a felony level. In Virginia, assault and battery are one merged offense under 18.2-57, such as a simple fight or just a touch. If one person comes up and touches another person in an unwanted fashion, that can be an assault. Assault can also be de facto touching, or a threat that put somebody in reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a fight or a punch to be simple assault. If it’s something more aggravated, for example if a weapon is involved or the person who is accused of the assault is out of control or inflicts a severe injury, it could be a felony assault. Another common example is driving under the influence. A DUI first offense and a DUI second offense are both misdemeanors. A third or subsequent offense, in Virginia, is a felony. That’s different than in the District of Columbia, for example, where DUIs don’t ever rise to a felony level, but in Virginia, a third or subsequent offense can be a felony.