How is Assault Defined in Virginia?

Assault is a criminal offense that a lot of people simply do not understand. Much of the confusion comes from the fact that Virginia uses both of the terms simple assault and assault and battery to define the same act.

Assault is defined as an overt act that puts another person in reasonable fear of bodily harm. There is no touching needed to commit the crime of assault. Battery is defined as the willful touching of another without legal justification done in an angry, rude, insulting, or vengeful manner. As you can see, the basic difference is the touching of the other person. If you don’t touch the person, it is an assault. If you do touch the person, it is assault and battery.

What is Simple Assault?

Simple Assault is just another term for both assault or assault and battery under Virginia law. When one uses the term Simple Assault they are generally referring to the misdemeanor charges of either assault or assault and battery. Several factors determine whether your assault charge will be a misdemeanor simple assault or a felony charge. Chief among the determining factors is the level of harm brought upon the victim. Other factors, like assault on a law enforcement officer, may see what would otherwise be considered a simple assault elevated to the level of a felony charge.

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, simple assault is often charged as a misdemeanor offense. Most simple assault cases in Virginia relate to physical assaults that left minor damage.

Examples of simple assault in Virginia include the following:

  • Forcefully grabbing another person’s body or one of their limbs and causing pain or discomfort.
  • Pulling on someone’s hair.
  • Shoving another person up against the wall.
  • Threatening to strike another person and giving the implication that you mean to follow up on those threats.
  • Throwing an object at someone’s head but missing.

Simple assault is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Courtroom trials for simple assault cases will be heard in the General District Court unless the case involves family members or a juvenile, in which case the trial may be heard in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. In order to have the best possible defense against the charge of simple assault, it is crucial that you retain the legal counsel of experienced assault and battery lawyers. Our law firm has years of experience devoted to criminal defense, and we would be proud to represent your case in a court of law.

What is Aggravated Assault?

More serious assaults in Virginia are called Malicious Wounding rather than aggravated assault. One commits Malicious Wounding by causing any bodily injury to another in any manner with intent to kill, maim, disfigure or disable another person. The injury can be as slight as a cut to the skin during what otherwise would be a misdemeanor simple assault. Usually, however, assaults involving such minor injuries are charged as misdemeanors rather than felonies. Basically, the prosecutor would decide whether to go forward on a misdemeanor assault or felony malicious wounding based on many factors, which includes the seriousness of the injury.

Examples of malicious wounding in Virginia include:

  • Physically assaulting another person and causing cuts, lacerations, bruising, burns, or broken bones.
  • Shooting or stabbing another person.
  • Striking someone with a deadly weapon, such as a gun, knife, baseball bat, etc., and causing a wound or other bodily injury,

If you have been charged with malicious wounding in Virginia, you must speak with a criminal defense attorney without delay. These charges can come with several additional charges on top of them, making them especially serious criminal offenses.

What Are the Penalties for Either Type of Assault?

If convicted of simple assault in Virginia, you may face jail time of up to 12 months, financial penalties of up to $2,500, and the potential for additional penalties depending on the factors surrounding your case. In some simple assault cases, the guilty must perform community service, attend mental health courses, and complete rehabilitative services.

Malicious wounding is a felony charge. The penalty for malicious wounding is up to twenty years in prison. If found guilty of the lesser charge of unlawful wounding, the penalty is up to five years in prison. However, if the person is charged with and found guilty of Aggravated Malicious Wounding for causing permanent and significant physical impairment, the penalty is a minimum of 20 years and up to life in prison.

Many times, however, a person is charged with additional charges tacked on to a malicious wounding charge that increases the overall sentence if convicted of those charges too. Additionally, assaulting specific persons carries higher sentences so it is possible that the accused could face much more time in prison. Factors that could result in additional criminal charges or higher sentences include:

  • Simple Assault on corrections officers, including judges, magistrates, and other specified persons, is classified as a felony with up to 5 years in prison.
  • Shooting a person may result in a charge of Malicious Wounding, with a possible sentence of up to 20 years, and a separate charge of using a firearm in the commision of a felony, with a mandatory minimum sentence of three years that must be served consecutively to the sentence for the malicious wounding.
  • Assaulting specific individuals like health care providers, and teachers carries with it a minimum jail sentence of 15 days, two days of which is a mandatory minimum sentence that must be served..
  • A third conviction for simple assault involving domestic violence is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
  • Simple assault on a person wherein the assault was motivated by race, religion, sexuality, or other protected characteristics, commonly called hate crimes, is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison with a sentence of at least six months..

Schedule an In-Depth Case Evaluation

If you have been accused of assault in Virginia, whether it is simple assault or an aggravated assault as set forth above, you need to retain professional legal representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your criminal defense lawyers can help build a strong use of legal defense strategy to defend your case. Common defense strategies used in assault cases include the lack of intent or self-defense.. The sooner your defense attorney speaks to you about your case, the sooner they can begin building a defense to represent your interest
Contact our Roanoke, Virginia, law offices to schedule your initial consultation today. (540)-384-4585.