Differences Between Assault and Domestic Violence in Virginia
Assault in Virginia is when a person commits an aggressive action or threat to another party. If one makes a threat and they have the present ability to follow up on that threat and the other person is defending from the threat, it is considered assault. For example, if someone is raising their fist at a person’s face and threatening to just harm that person, that is an assault. If they are raising their fist from a quarter-mile away and they are yelling something that the person cannot hear, that is not assaulted. Assault is the words followed by some overt actions that place a person under reasonable apprehension of bodily harm.
Domestic violence is not a defined term under Virginia law. Domestic violence is a term of art, meaning that it does not have a specific code. However, certain specific Virginia codes are considered crimes of domestic violence and these are crimes that occur involving the classification of a person.
Specifically, the Virginia Code Section 16.1-288 defines family or household members. This is broader than the common understanding of what a family member might be as it includes anyone who has children in common as well as other typical familial household people such as step-parents or grandparents. Virginia code specifically finds that when a person who is the victim of any crime and is also a family member, that person may be charged with a crime of domestic violence.
Contact an experienced lawyer today to learn more about the differences between assault and domestic violence in Virginia.
Why Domestic Violence and Assault Cases Charges Differently?
Domestic violence and typical assault cases are charged differently because the crime of domestic violence or assault in the home is different from assault involving a stranger. The court will want to know if it is a family member or some other type person. There is data that shows that many assaults occur within the home and that many of these assaults that occur within the home are habitual and maybe the first time a person comes to court is not the first time it has happened.
The intense relationship within the home may lead to situations in which an assault occurs does not necessarily warrant a criminal conviction. Rather than dismiss those cases, the statutory scheme has evolved to allow a situation where a person can do certain things to have that case not go forward as a conviction but to have protections for the victims in the case. That is why domestic violence and assault are viewed differently.
Building a Defense in Assault and Domestic Violence Cases
The strategy does differ significantly if it is a domestic charge vs. a non-domestic charge. That is because, in a domestic context, lawyers have the ability to seek that first offender disposition if the person is eligible. They have the ability to complete a program or series of classes to have the case dismissed after a period of time. The statute typically provides for a two-year deferred finding, although each locality handles these a little bit differently.
In the non-domestic context, there is a non-trial disposition called an accord and satisfaction in which the parties work out a civil solution to the criminal case. That is a common resolution for certain types of assault cases. By statute, however, it is not available in a domestic case. If a person is in a fight in a bar, and the fight causes an injury and the person agrees to pay the person’s medical bills instead of going to trial, that is an accord and satisfaction. If a husband and wife get in a fight and one of them is injured, they cannot simply do the accord and satisfaction as if they were unrelated parties.
Domestic Violence and Assault Penalties
Both domestic and non-domestic assault charges are Class 1 misdemeanors, which means they are both punishable by up to 12 months in jail, up to a $2,500 fine, or a combination thereof. They are also punishable by things like probation, anger management classes, batterers’ awareness classes, and community service. However, if someone is convicted of assault and battery of a family member, that is a crime of a domestic violence and therefore, they are banned from possessing or purchasing a firearm.
That firearms restriction that exists in a domestic violence scenario but does not exist in a normal assault and battery scenario is an additional serious penalty that an attorney must be aware of when crafting their defense.
If you have any questions about the differences between assault and domestic violence in Virginia, get in touch with an accomplished lawyer.