Thomas Soldan On Difference between Assault and Domestic Violence
The following is an excerpt from an interview with Virginia assault and domestic violence lawyer Thomas Soldan.
What is The Difference Between Domestic Violence and Assault in Virginia?
Thomas Soldan: Under Virginia law, domestic violence is assault on a family member. It could be any type of assault, not necessarily assault and battery. It could be emotional or physical threats. Those types of abuses are all under the category of what we consider domestic violence. The code that is charged is 18.2-57.2, assault and battery of a family member. That includes words, threats, and reasonable fear of bodily injury, or it could be actual physical contact such as pushing, punching, kicking, and grabbing. The assault and battery elements are merged into one under Virginia law.
Why Are Domestic Violence and Assault Are Charged Differently?
Thomas Soldan: One of the reasons they are charged differently is because the people involved in domestic violence or assault on a family member cases enjoy a special relationship. They reside in the same household, at the same physical address, so they have access to each other. In a normal fight, for example in a bar fight or a fight in a park or a street, the victim and the combatant probably don’t know where each other lives and don’t have the same address. Society wants to make sure that people who live in close quarters and see each other every day are safe from each other if they were involved in a crime of violence. When someone is charged with assault on a family member, or domestic violence, an emergency protective order is ordered as a matter of law and that keeps the people away from each other for a minimum of three days. Oftentimes, the person who is charged is forced to leave their house for three days. They may be able to talk with the law enforcement officer about gathering their necessary belongings, either by themselves, under law enforcement supervision, or by having the officer go to their house on their behalf. They will gather things like clothes, toiletries, and personal supplies so they can move out for those three days. The victim of domestic assault would have the option to extend that emergency protective order, also known as EPO, into a preliminary protective order, or PPO, on a more permanent basis if they chose to do so. By issuing the EPO, it allows people to cool down, get to safe quarters, and then decide what the most appropriate remedy is.
What Are The Differences between Assault and Domestic Violence Penalties in Virginia?
Thomas Soldan: Typically the court costs would be higher. The procedural protection for everyone involved in a domestic violence case is different. The penalties may be harsher considering the relationship between the people. There are also certain federal laws that come into play. The most common is that if someone is convicted of domestic violence, they are prohibited from possessing or transporting a firearm pursuant to federal law. That is not exclusive to Virginia cases; that applies to all cases that involve domestic violence. If you commit domestic violence, you cannot own a gun. There is a strong public policy reason for that. People who are involved in certain professions need to be aware before they enter any pleas in a domestic violence charge that that prohibition on owning or possessing a firearm is very real. That would seriously impact people in the military, law enforcement, or civil defense. If someone works in the hunting industry, where they have to carry or be around firearms, a domestic violence conviction could be very harmful for them.