The crimes of assault and battery are charged together in the Commonwealth of Virginia. They can be prosecuted as either misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the circumstances surrounding the alleged offense, the degree of injury to the victim, and whether any weapons were used by the suspected assailant.
In extreme cases of felony assault, convictions can bring very long prison sentences. This is one reason why those charged with assault require the services of an experienced Richmond assault lawyer to present the best possible defense. By calling today and conducting your free consultation, you can provide our criminal defense team with the necessary details of your case to begin building a strategy that fits your needs.
Assault is a common law term that refers to the threat of bodily harm. The alleged victim must be in “reasonable” fear of injury by the suspect’s words or actions. Battery occurs when the victim allegedly suffers harm following the assault. Lower forms (less injury and no weapon involved) are prosecuted as Class 1 misdemeanors [Virginia Criminal Code Section 18.2-57], which are punishable by up to 12 months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine.
Because assault is a very general crime that is normally prosecuted based on the particular circumstances and aggravating factors present (like the presence of a weapon, the infliction of physical harm, or the type of victim), it is very important to consult an assault attorney when you are first charged. Your assault attorney will work with you to determine the best course of action when designing a personalized defense against any assault charge, including the following:
Unlawful Wounding: [VA Code 18.2-51]. The suspect shoots, cuts, or stabs the victim, intending to injure, maim, disable, disfigure, or kill. If the act was premeditated, it is a class 3 felony [VA Code 18.2-10(c)]. But if no premeditation was present, a less serious class 6 felony could be charged [VA Code 18.2-10(f)]. Penalties range from one to five years in prison and a fine as high as $2,500 (class 6 felony) to 20 years and a maximum fine of $100,000 (class 3) [VA Code 18.2-10 (b and f)].
Aggravated Malicious Wounding: is injuring the victim so severely as to cause permanent physical disfigurement or damage when malicious intent can be proven [VA Code 18.2-51.2]. There are several other circumstances in which this offense may be charged. It is prosecuted as a class 2 felony and carries a prison sentence of up to $100,000 [VA Code 18.2-10 (b)].
Assault with Significant Injury: This occurs when harm done to the victim goes beyond superficial cuts and bruises. Injuries include deep lacerations, broken bones, deep bruising, and other wounds of that nature. The injury or injuries the victim receives are significant harm to the victim, and result in hospitalization and/or ongoing treatment. Assault with significant injury is a Class 2 Felony in Virginia, which comes with incarceration of 20 years to life, and a fine of up to $100,000 [VA Code § 18.2-10 (b)].
Robbery or Burglary Accompanied by an Assault: This is charged when the victim was harmed during the theft. Assault can be an underlying charge that enhances the robbery or burglary (theft) felony in order for the suspect to receive a prison sentence closer to the maximums than would have been imposed if there had been no assault [VA Codes 18.2-58 and 18.2-91]. But if the assault is the more serious offense, the theft crime can serve as the underlying charge to enhance the assault penalty. This decision is made at the discretion of the prosecutor and is usually determined by whichever “top count” charge carries a longer prison sentence once enhancements are applied.
Assault and Battery of Protected Groups: [VA Code 18.2-57(C)]. Suspects who assault on-duty police, corrections and parole officers, firefighters, and EMTs face this charge. The prosecution must prove the suspect knew that the victim was part of the protected group at the time of the offense, which also includes judges (at any time, not simply while they’re performing judicial functions). This class 6 felony brings incarceration of one to five years, with a mandatory six-month prison sentence that must be served upon conviction.
Assaulting an Educator: [VA Code 18.2-57(D)]. This statute protects teachers, principals, and guidance counselors (in the performance of their daily duties only). Charged as a class 1 misdemeanor, conviction brings a punishment of up to a year in jail and a maximum $2,500 fine. Conviction under this part of the statute shall include at least 15 days in jail, two days of which are mandatory minimum.
Hate Crimes: [VA Code 18.2-57(B)]. Those who violate this law (in conjunction with any other assault) are accused of singling out their victims because of race, religion, color, national origin or sexual preference. These “bias crimes” are prosecuted as class 6 felony. As a stand-alone charge, it can be punished by up to five years in prison, with a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail if the assault involved only a threat by the suspect. But if felony assault is committed, the hate crime serves as a penalty enhancement for the top-count felony and lengthens the prison sentence.
Virginia domestic assault refers to sexual, physical, or emotional harm done to a family member. A conviction normally produces Class 1 misdemeanor penalties for a first or second offense (maximum of a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500). A third conviction, though, brings a Class 6 felony punishment, up to five years in prison and/or a $2,500 fine.
Domestic assault can also involve spousal rape, sexual assault (to either a spouse/legal companion or a child) and can bring very serious felony penalties. Conviction of any domestic assault crime could severely restrict the relationships you have with your children and other family members. When facing any such charges, it is critical that your criminal defense attorney conduct a thorough investigation of all evidence and interview all witnesses in order to mount the best possible defense under the circumstances.
Virginia does not have a reckless endangerment statute, but there are statutes in Virginia that use the phrase “reckless endangerment.” One of those statutes involves throwing items from a roof or over a ground floor with the intent to harm individuals. That can be a very serious charge and is a Class 6 felony in the state of Virginia.
A person may be charged under the statutes that refer to reckless endangerment when they throw items on individuals or vehicles from a roof or an overpass. For a prosecutor to get a conviction under statutes that include reckless endangerment, the prosecutor must show that the individual intended to harm another. Their behavior was such that there could be no other conclusion other than they intended to harm individuals.
A lawyer can help a person defend these charges by raising issues regarding the intent behind the charge and by claiming that the person is not the individual alleged to have committed the crime. For a first offense, an attorney may attempt to negotiate with prosecutors to have the charge reduced and/or dismissed after community service or something similar.
No one facing assault charges should face a judge or jury alone. That’s why it’s crucial to speak with a Richmond assault lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney will work with your to minimize the impact of these circumstances on your personal and professional life, helping you to recover and move on as quickly as possible. Call today for a free consultation.
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