If you are convicted of assault or battery in Virginia, you could be fined, incarcerated, or placed on probation. If you’re charged with either crime in the Roanoke area, you must be advised and represented by a Roanoke criminal defense lawyer, and you must contact that lawyer at once.

How does the law in Virginia define assault and battery? How are these crimes different? Exactly what penalties will you face if you are convicted of assault or battery? And what steps should you take if you are placed under arrest and charged with assault, or battery, or both?

If you’ll keep reading this brief discussion of the assault and battery laws in Virginia, you will learn the answers to these questions, and you’ll also learn how a Roanoke assault and battery lawyer will work to bring your own assault or battery case to its best possible conclusion.

How Are Assault and Battery Defined?

In Virginia, battery occurs when one willfully touches another, without legal excuse or justification, done in an angry, rude, insulting, or vengeful manner. It can be a stiff finger to the chest or a knockout blow. A battery may also be called “simple assault.”

Assault occurs when one person does an overt act intended to put another person in reasonable fear of bodily harm together with the present ability to cause such harm. The difference between an assault and a “simple assault” or battery is whether the other person is touched in some fashion. If touched, it would be classified as battery or “simple assault.” If not touched, it would be classified as an assault.

However, if an assault involves an aggravating circumstance – such as strangulation or “malicious wounding” – the crime may be charged as a felony. A felony assault conviction in Virginia is punishable with a steep fine and a lengthy prison term.

Who Has “Protected” Status Under Virginia Law?

An assault charge also becomes a felony charge if the assault is committed against a “protected” individual and the defendant knew that the individual’s status was protected. Individuals with “protected” status under Virginia law include:

  1. law enforcement officers, judges, and firefighters
  2. officers and employees of correctional facilities
  3. emergency medical personnel

Battery, Assault, and Domestic Violence

Assaults against family or household members are considered “domestic” assaults and are charged as misdemeanors unless there is an aggravating circumstance or unless the defendant has prior convictions for domestic violence.

In Virginia, family and household members include:

  1. parents, children, and siblings
  2. spouses, ex-spouses, and parents of the same child without regard to marital status
  3. in-laws living in the same residence
  4. grandparents and grandchildren
  5. people who’ve lived together within the previous twelve months

What Are the Penalties for Assault and Battery Convictions?

Listed here are the penalties that may be imposed for convictions on the most common assault and battery charges in Virginia:

  1. Simple assault, domestic assault, and assault as a hate crime are considered Class 1 misdemeanors. A conviction for any of these assault charges may be punished with up to twelve months in jail and with a fine of up to $2,500.
  2. Assaulting a police officer or another “protected” person, unlawful wounding, and strangulation are Class 6 felonies. So is battery as a hate crime. Convictions for any of these charges may be punished with up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500, with a mandatory minimum sentence of six months incarceration.
  3. A conviction for malicious wounding, a Class 3 felony, may be punished by a term of imprisonment of not less than five years nor more than twenty years and a fine of not more than $100,000. If the victim was a protected government employee, a sentence of up to thirty years in prison may be imposed.
  4. When a victim suffers significant and permanent physical impairment or involuntarily miscarries a pregnancy, the charge is aggravated malicious wounding, a Class 2 felony. A conviction may be punished with twenty years to life in prison and a fine of $100,000.

How Will a Lawyer Defend You Against an Assault Charge?

Self-defense is the most common defense offered in assault and battery cases, and there are two different types of self-defense claims. If the defendant was without fault in starting the incident, his or her attorney must demonstrate that the defendant reasonably feared he was in imminent danger of being killed or that he was in imminent danger of great bodily harm and used no more force than necessary to protect himself.

If the defendant was at some degree at fault in starting the incident, then he must also show that he retreated as far as he could in attempting to abandon the fight and made known his desire for peace.

Acting to defend someone else is another common defense offered in assault and battery cases. With this defense, one must reasonably believe the person defended is without fault in provoking the fray, that the person defended is subject to death or serious bodily harm and then use only the amount of force reasonably related to the harm threatened.

Other defenses sometimes offered in assault and battery cases include:

  1. You were misidentified and someone else in fact perpetrated the battery or assault.
  2. No assault or battery happened as the allegation was entirely fabricated.

You will need to have a Roanoke criminal defense lawyer review the details of your assault or battery case and develop an aggressive and effective defense. The specifics of the assault or battery charge will dictate the particulars of your attorney’s defense strategy.

Exercising Your Rights Is Imperative

If you are charged with assault or battery, exercise your right to remain silent and your right to have your attorney present for any questioning. Don’t make any statement – written, recorded, or verbal – to anyone but your defense attorney.

If you are charged with assault or battery, your Virginia criminal defense lawyer will probably seek to have the case dismissed. If that isn’t possible, you have the right to a jury trial where your attorney will explain what happened and why the jurors should find you not guilty.

However, if the evidence of your guilt is strong and a conviction is certain, your attorney may negotiate for a lesser charge or for alternative or reduced sentencing. Don’t think about acting as your own attorney. Having the right defense attorney’s advice and representation is imperative.

You Will Need Personalized Legal Advice

You’ve been reading a basic introduction to the assault and battery laws in Virginia, but every case and every defendant is unique, so if you are charged with one of these crimes, you will require sound, personalized guidance and legal advice.

An effective defense strategy is essential, but the success of a defense strategy in an assault or battery case also requires the experience and legal knowledge of a talented Virginia defense attorney who will fight aggressively for the truth and for justice on a defendant’s behalf.