Assault is a confusing law for most people because there are so many misconceptions about it. To make matters worse, those misconceptions make it seem like it is much more difficult to violate the laws that prohibit assault than it really is. This leaves many people who have been accused of assault surprised that what they are accused of doing was illegal in any way. Because of this, retaining the services of an attorney could help.
A Dumfries assault lawyer can help defend you against the accusations that you assaulted someone else, and guide you through the criminal justice system in a way that protects your rights and your future.
While assault is covered by Virginia Code Ann. § 18.2-57 in Dumfries, accusations of assault occur so often that courts have minutely refined what it means to commit the offense. Now, assault is defined as intentionally doing something that creates an apprehension of an imminent offensive or harmful contact.
Unfortunately, this definition of assault is very broad, and arguably covers far more situations than the statute was designed to prohibit.
One of the most critical and confusing misconceptions about assault is that it is the same as a battery. It is not, despite the fact that many allegations of assault also include an accusation of battery, as well.
While an assault is the intentional creation of an apprehension of an imminent offensive or harmful contact, a battery is the offensive or harmful contact, itself. Therefore, because an assault often occurs in the instant immediately before a battery happens, assault and battery charges often come together.
If the prosecutor proves that a defendant committed an assault, the penalties are not insignificant: Assault is a Class 1 misdemeanor and carries a jail term of up to a year and a fine of up to $2,500.
Additionally, there are sentence enhancements if the purported victim of the assault was a part of a protected class of people. For example, if the prosecutor can prove that an assault targeted a certain person because of that person’s race, religion, or ethnicity, then a conviction carries a mandatory minimum of six months in jail. Other examples of protected classes of people include:
This last group of people – family or household members – comes with an additional complication: An assault on a family or household member becomes a crime of domestic violence, which carries numerous collateral consequences of a conviction, including restraining orders and mandatory domestic violence classes.
With the help of a Dumfries assault lawyer, strong arguments and legal defenses can be raised to prevent a criminal charge from becoming a criminal conviction.
A common defense is that the alleged assault was actually the result of self-defense. In many cases, assault charges follow complicated altercations where it was difficult to determine who the aggressor was. People who commit an assault for the purpose of defending themselves or someone else can utilize the self-defense argument to justify their actions.
Another common defense – particularly in a domestic violence-related assault case – is that the allegations were falsely made and done with an ulterior motive. In many divorce cases, angry spouses try using the legal system to paint their partner in a negative light by accusing them of something that they know to be false, simply to make the accused person deal with the repercussions. A Dumfries assault lawyer can use the context surrounding the allegations to show that they were falsely made and baseless.
Being accused of assaulting someone else can be a traumatic experience, especially if the allegations turn into a criminal charge that gains traction. The reality that a criminal conviction is a possibility can be terrifying, especially when you know what really happened.
A Dumfries assault lawyer can help. By defending your rights and advocating on your behalf in the courtroom and before the trial, an attorney can protect your future from a criminal conviction for assault.
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