The Commonwealth of Virginia defines the crime of assault as the threat or use of force on an individual that causes that person to have “reasonable apprehension” of imminent harmful or offensive contact. Assault can charged as a criminal matter, or it can result in a civil suit or tort action. The term “assault and battery,” which is often interchanged with the term assault, is – in the most general terms – the combination of assault, followed by harmful or offensive contact. For the full definition of assault, please refer to the Code of Virginia, Title 18.2, Chapter 4, under Section 18.2-57 or speak to a Virginia assault attorney.
Some examples of the variety of assault charges that you may face in Virginia include, but are not limited to:
Child abuse can also fall under the category of assault.
Many times, a criminal charge is the result of an altercation in which two or more individuals were involved. In these cases, responding police officers are often forced to try to sort out the truth between two or more conflicting reports and frequently amid the chaos of the moment. Though officers use their best judgment, determination of who is the victim and who is the perpetrator can be extremely difficult to determine in the immediate aftermath of an incident. An experienced attorney will know how to find and establish evidence showing their client was not the instigator and was acting in self-defense or in the defense of another person.
If, however, it appears as though a conviction may be inevitable, they will know how to negotiate for a plea agreement, which may include reduced charges or deferred sentencing to minimize the consequences of such a conviction. Because of the subjectivity that can sometimes accompany an assault arrest and charge, a dedicated Northern Virginia attorney will have a few different options to consider regarding defense strategy.
According to Virginia code 18.2-57, simple assault is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If the crime is committed specifically because of the victim’s race or religious views, and the battery results in bodily injury, then the charge may be bumped up to a Class 6 felony. The penalties for a Class 6 felony range from one to five years in prison, unless your defense attorney can appeal to the judge or jury’s discretion to hand down a lesser penalty. Such crimes, typically referred to as a “hate crime,” will include at least six months in jail with a 30-day mandatory minimum, which means you cannot qualify for early release. You will also face up to $2,500 in fines. Other types of assault are assumed to stem from a once-in-a-moment mistake or moment of regrettable passion. Hate crimes are, by their nature, more likely to be premeditated. As a result, these types of assault result in far more grave penalties. Of course, these penalties can also increase depending on whether or not this is the first time you have been charged with this type of crime or if you have other, similar issues in your criminal history.
The crime of Assault on an Officer is defined by Section 18.2-57(C). In general terms, you can be charged with this crime in NoVa if you know or have a reason to know the victim is a member of law enforcement, a judge, firefighter, correctional officer, or EMT. However, the law also requires that the victim was performing his or her official duties when the offense was committed. The crime qualifies as a Class 6 felony and the same terms described above.
Section 18.2-57(D) is similar to the charge of assaulting an officer in that it also requires that you must know or should have known the victim is a teacher, principal, or guidance counselor. The victim must also be performing their official duties when the attack occurs and is classified as Class 1 misdemeanor. Penalties for a Class 1 misdemeanor are up to one year in jail and/or up to a $2,500 fine. The violation also requires a minimum sentence of 15 days in jail, with a two-day mandatory minimum. If, however, the battery was committed against a school-employee and involved the use of a gun or other type of weapon, and if you are convicted, you must serve a six-month mandatory minimum jail sentence.
Section 18.2-57(E) related to the charge of “Assaulting a Healthcare Provider.” Again, to be found guilty of such a charge the Commonwealth must prove or demonstrate that you knew, or should have known, the victim is health care worker and that the victim was performing their duties in a facility providing “emergency care.” The charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor and results in the same penalties as those previously described, including the mandatory two-day minimum. In any of these cases, it is best to contact a Virginia assault attorney as soon as possible for your defense.
By: Zack F.
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Patrick Woolley Attorney At Law