Law enforcement takes charges of assault and domestic violence extremely seriously and, as a result, it is important for anyone accused to have a strong defense. The resulting consequences for a conviction can be severe, and understanding the differences between assault versus domestic violence in Prince William County can be difficult to determine without a skilled attorney by your side.
If you were chraged with any composition of assault or domestic charges, speaking with a skilled attorney immediately might be beneficial. A dedicated legal professional could help by explaining your rights and working to guide you through the ensuing legal process.
The law defines assault as an intentional physical act which places another person in reasonable fear or apprehension and may entail immediate bodily harm or unwanted contact. The law uses the term ‘apprehension of harm or contact’ because it is a broader form of expectation than the word ‘fear.’ Some assaults are minor in nature, such that the victim may not experience fear or a desire to physically defend oneself, but legitimately anticipates some sort of non-consensual physical contact to occur from an assailant.
Any degree of anticipated physical touching is enough, because the law treats harmful touching and unwanted touching equally in the context of assault. This charge does not, however, include the actual infliction of such harm or contact, which is instead defined as battery. Assault has the same definition, whether the case is criminal or civil in nature.
Domestic violence means that a domestic battery was inflicted, as opposed to an assault. Although many people use the terms “family violence,” “domestic violence,” and “domestic assault” interchangeably, battery requires non-consensual physical touching to occur.
Often times, domestic violence cases involve notable injuries such as bruises, cuts, and fractures. Using these definitions, a knowledgeable attorney could review a case to describe the difference between Prince William County assault and domestic violence cases to a defendant.
The phrase “assault and battery” arises from that fact that an assault may precede a battery. Law enforcement can charge a person with both if there are multiple instances of threatened or attempted physical contact. A way in which a person can be charged with both assault and domestic violence is when an altercation occurs between a victim and an alleged assailant who is categorized as a “domestic” in terms of in Virginia Law.
Domestic assault cases are different from assault cases in numerous wayss. One key difference is that domestic assault charges are litigated in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court (JDR), rather than the General District Courts. JDR is a specialized district court that is more private in nature and not open to the public. The heightened concerns prosecutors have in these cases are that the defendant may have easier access to the alleged victim to commit additional assaults, or to tamper with evidence of guilt—which is usually not a concern with assault cases that involve two parties who do not live together.
For this reason, the Virginia domestic assault statute also provides for an enhancement scheme which upgrades any third or subsequent misdemeanor charge into a Class Six felony, unlike normal assault charges. The Virginia Code also prohibits judges from dismissing domestic assault charges when the alleged victim acknowledges in writing that they have received adequate redress from the accused.
Still, prosecutors also understand that alleged victims in these cases may become problematic in terms of providing testimony against the alleged assailant, due to a familial or intimate emotional relationship. This often translates into prosecutors dropping domestic assault charges outright, or making better plea offers than in other assault cases.
While both are severe, the charges for assault differ greatly than those for domestic violence. As a result, a defense for either of these offenses requires different strategies and knowledge to create.
If someone has been charged with any combination of these offenses, however, they should consider contacting a well-versed and skilled attorney to learn more about the differences of assault versus domestic violence in Prince William County.
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