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Virginia Assault Penalties

When facing an assault charge, the penalties can vary widely from a misdemeanor offense involving a fine or probation, all the way up to a felony conviction that can produce extensive prison time. Punishment is determined based on several factors including the defendant’s criminal history, the severity of the crime, the law of the state where the offense was committed, and whether the alleged victim was a public servant or not, such as a police officer or teacher.

Regardless of the extent of the crime, it is paramount to contact an experienced assault attorney who can counsel you and mitigate any aggravating circumstances that could increase the range of punishment.

Range of Penalties

If a person is charged with a simple assault in Virginia, the maximum punishment is 12 months in jail because it is a class one misdemeanor. If, however, the assault rises to a class six felony because of certain classifications of the victim or the results of the assault, the potential punishments are one to five years in the Department of Corrections, or in the alternative up to 12 months in jail, and a fine.

Aggravating Factors

When someone commits an assault against an individual because of their race, religious conviction, or national origin, if convicted, they have to be sentenced to at least six months, of which 30 days is mandatory. Additionally, there are enhanced penalties when the victim is a judge, magistrate, law enforcement officer, firefighter, correction officer, teacher, principal, or school aide, among others, under specific circumstances.

Alternative Sentencing Options

Depending on the nature of the first offense, there may be alternative sentencing and other remedies that your attorney will explore. Some of these remedies may include, but would not be limited to suspended imposition of sentence, deferred finding, and/or the court of satisfaction. The parameters for domestic assault deferred findings can be found in Virginia Code Section 18.2-57.3.

Elements of Assault

To obtain a conviction, the prosecution must prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt while not falling victim to any of the defense’s potential affirmative defenses. On the opposing side, a defense attorney will also explore all of the remedies, mitigation, and legal defenses that are available. For assault charges, the defense could be mutual combat, self-defense, or consent.

To try to undermine the prosecution’s case, while validating their own case, the defense attorney will bring in any relevant evidence, including their own witness statements or cellular telephone video, if available. The evidence and how it is presented is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Importance of an Attorney

It is important for the individual being accused of an assault charge to contact an attorney as soon as possible, because the evidence will not exist indefinitely. Witnesses that are not contacted cannot offer their point of view, cellphone videos may be deleted, and security camera video footage may be recorded over. Experienced attorneys are aware of this and make efforts as soon as they take a case to preserve crucial evidence.

Assault charges at their core seem simple. The nuances of how these cases are presented and how they are defended, however, can vary widely. It is important that an attorney learn how to read witnesses, interpret witnesses, present evidence, negotiate and work with prosecutors, and make arguments before judges. These are skills that are gained over time and experience. Some can only be learned from practicing regularly, such as understanding the prosecution strategy and making persuasive arguments to specific judges. All of these elements can be invaluable in someone’s defense.

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