Assault and battery charges are difficult to fight especially if a household or family member reports an incident against you. Since Virginia courts follow strict proceedings and impose hefty penalties on assault/battery offenders, an attorney is your best hope to fight these such charges. Through our Virginia Criminal Attorney law firm, we offer legal advice and representation targeting Fairfax, VA and Northern Virginia residents. Besides assault and battery, our practices areas also include driving offenses, drug crimes, and property crimes.
What is Assault and Battery on a Family or Household Member Under Virginia Laws?
In Virginia, assault and battery against a household or family member is regarded as a form of domestic violence. Virginia Code 18.2-57.2 considers this crime as a Class 1 misdemeanor. You may be accused of this crime when you push, hit, punch, slap, beat, spank, strike, smack or injure a family or household member. The victim may be your roommate, boyfriend, girlfriend, grandparent, parent, sibling, wife or husband.
Definition of Terms
VA Code 16.1-228 defines the phrase “family abuse” as any act that involves threat, force or violence that causes bodily injury or death and is committed against your household or family member. The phrase “household or family member” refers to individuals you reside with or share the same house. VA Code 16.1-228 considers these individuals as your spouse, former spouse, parents/stepparents, children, stepchildren, siblings/step siblings and in-laws. Household/family members can also include your child’s father/mother (whether you’re married or not) and any person you’ve lived with for more than 12 months.
In an “assault and battery on a household or family member” case, the predominant physical aggressor refers to the offender. For the officers to identify you as the predominant physical aggressor, you don't have to be the first party to assault or batter your household or family member. To determine that you violated VA Code 18.2-57.2, the officers will identify the first aggressor and refer to previous complaints (if there are any) of family abuse. Witness statements and observation of injuries inflicted can also help single out the predominant physical aggressor.
Expect to be issued a protective order, which is a court order administered on behalf of a household or family member, to prohibit you from committing subsequent violence acts. The court order may also order you (as the abuser) to provide child support (temporary one), relinquish vehicle custody, vacate the home/residence and refrain from further contact. You may also be asked to observe other measures highlighted under VA Code 16.1-279.1.
Virginia courts consider “battery” as the act of touching a person in anger or willfully. Battery can also involve touching someone else using an object willfully or in anger to inflict pain or cause harm. Touching someone else with their consent or touching them accidentally/non-recklessly doesn’t make you a suspect in a battery crime. Unlike battery, an assault offense doesn’t need actual touching for you to be prosecuted.
Penalties for Assault and Battery on a Household or Family Member in Virginia
Any violation of VA Code 18.2-57.2 can be treated as either a Class 1 misdemeanor or Class 6 felony. A simple assault/battery against your household or family member can result in you being charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. Having at least two prior convictions for assault and battery on a household/family member can make you be prosecuted for a Class 6 felony. Your Class 6 felony charges will be based on your prior convictions for VA Code 18.2-57.2 violations, malicious/unlawful wounding, malicious bodily injury or strangulation.
Upon being issued a warrant for violating VA Code 18.2-57.2, a Virginia magistrate will issue you an emergency protective order. You’ll be required to abide by the conditions indicated on this court order. If you’re a minor, the protective order won’t be required when prosecuting your case.
The punishment for a Class 1 misdemeanor conviction in Virginia includes not more than 12-month jail time and a fine not exceeding $2,500 under VA Code 18.2-11(a). The authorized punishment for a Class 6 felony in the Commonwealth of Virginia includes a prison sentence ranging from a year to five years under VA Code 18.2-10(f). You may also be sentenced to 12 months in a local jail and required to pay a $2,500 maximum fine in the discretion of a Virginia jury or court prosecuting you without a jury.
Penalties for First Offense VA Code 18.2-57.2 Violations
If you’re charged for assaulting or battering your household/family member for the first time, a Virginia court may dismiss the criminal proceedings against you. The court may not find you guilty of the offense and place you on mandatory probation under the terms specified in VA Code 18.2-57.3.
A Virginia court will expect you to meet certain criteria for you to be eligible for such a dismissal. The requirements are as follows:
- You were an adult when you had the offense commissioned
- You don’t have any prior conviction for a VA Code 18.2-57.2 violation or any violation against a federal or state statute on assault/battery on a family/household member
- You don’t have any prior convictions for violent felonies such as arson, kidnapping or robbery under VA Code 19.2-297.1
- You didn’t have any proceeding (for violating VA Code 18.2-57.2) dismissed
- You decided to take no-contest, guilty or not-guilty pleas and a Virginia court found sufficient evidence to prosecute you for violating VA Code 18.2-57.2
- You consent to have your case dismissed or your rights waived for violating a condition or term of your probation
Can You Have Your Consent (to the Waiver of Your Right to Appeal or Case Deferral) Withdrawn?
You can withdraw this consent by having your lawyer file a motion within the ten days from the case deferral proceedings. The form for filing this motion must be issued by the Office of the Executive Secretary of Virginia’s Supreme Court. Expect the court to arrange for a hearing within thirty days upon receiving your motion and notify your attorney and the Commonwealth Attorney. The court may find you guilty and sentence you accordingly only if you attend the hearing and choose to withdraw your consent.
What are the Probation Terms/Conditions?
A Virginia court will mandate you to enroll in a treatment or education program and settle all the fees for the services/programs. Most services/programs have a sliding-scale payment structure to help participants that can’t make full payments. You’ll be ordered to maintain good behavior for at least two years while on supervised probation.
Once you fulfill the conditions/terms of your supervised probation, a Virginia court will discharge you and dismiss the criminal proceedings against you. Violating any probation condition/term will result in the court entering a guilt adjudication. With this guilt adjudication, you won’t have any right to appeal and may have penalties for violating VA Code 18.2-57.2 imposed against you.
How a Lawyer’s Help Comes Handy When Accused of Violating VA Code 18.2-57.2
The Virginia State Bar, which is one of the agencies under Virginia’s Supreme Court, offers professional conduct rules lawyers licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia should follow. The basic responsibility of an attorney is to provide you an informed understanding of your legal obligations and rights. Expect the legal counsel to also explain to you the practical implications of your obligations and rights.
Your lawyer needs to be proficient, diligent and prompt whether the legal services are provided in or out of court. You deserve to be given relevant updates regarding your case by your attorney at all times. As the client, you should have the chance to share any information that may help dismiss or reduce your charges with your lawyer. Under Virginia’s attorney-client privilege law, this information shouldn’t be shared with any outside party.
Since the law profession is entirely self-governing, there’s usually a close relationship between law enforcement and government processes and the profession. Your attorney’s work will involve different stakeholders from law enforcement and other government agencies. Virginia laws will also come into play when your freedom is being negotiated on your behalf by your lawyer. Any legal advice or representation rendered must completely abide by the relevant state laws.
Most lawyer-client meetings usually start with consultation. Consultation involves communicating information that’s reasonably adequate to help you know the legal options you have regarding a case. The service may be rendered by a lawyer working for a law firm, which is a professional public or private entity established to offer people like you legal services. Just as you expect quality legal advice/representation, your attorney also expects total cooperation from you for the success of your case.
Which Legal Defenses Work for “Assault and Battery Against a Household/Family Member” Charges?
Every crime committed in the Commonwealth of Virginia has various elements that prosecutors use to charge offenders. With the help of your criminal defense attorney, you can explore these elements and develop certain arguments to negate them. Such arguments can make up legal defenses for giving you total or partial refuge from penalties for violating VA Code 18.2-57.2. They may include:
- Mistake of Fact
Such a defense can help when you want to base your actions on mistaking a certain fact. For instance, your legal counsel may argue that you assaulted and battered a household/family member after believing that there was an intruder in your house. You have a right to act in any manner that guarantees your safety once you spot an intruder in your house. The court may lessen your penalties or dismiss the case if your actions were as a result of a “mistake of fact”.
Self-defense, in general, can be a reasonable action you took to protect yourself or someone else from a foreseeable threat. The defensive force applied in that situation should be proportional to the threat you were facing. If your assault and battery charges were based on self-defense, you may qualify for a charge dismissal or reduction. However, your attorney has to prove that the alleged victim put you in a situation in which assault and battery helped guarantee your safety.
- False or Compelled Confessions
In some cases, police officers may coerce false admissions from you using strategies such as starvation, sleep deprivation or physical threats. You may be forced to admit to committing assault and battery on your household/family member even if someone else did it. If your attorney can prove that the prosecutors built your case on false/compelled confessions, you may be acquitted of your charges.
- Involuntary Intoxication
VA Code 18.2-57.2 asserts that you’re only guilty of assault and battery on your household/family member if you committed the offense knowingly. Arguing that you were involuntarily intoxicated can help you beat the charges. Note that the court may ask for lab results to prove that your body was under the influence of a drug/substance someone gave you involuntarily. Your attorney must also present facts/evidence implicating the person that drugged you.
- Evidence Tampering
Common pieces of evidence needed in a VA Code 18.2-57.2 case include witness statements, biometric information (including your fingerprints) or footage from the crime scene. The evidence can be used by prosecutors against you or by your lawyers to get you justice. Either way, it has to be obtained lawfully. Any signs of evidence tampering can make the prosecutors’ allegations against you irrelevant and help negotiate your release.
When you assault or batter a household/family member, you may be charged with other types of offenses besides violating VA Code 18.2-57.2. Prosecutors may still bring allegations for such offenses even after your VA Code 18.2-57.2 case is dismissed. They include:
- Assault and Battery
Assault and battery against any individual is considered as a crime under Virginia Code 18.2-57. The offense qualifies as a Class 1 misdemeanor if it involves simple assault or simple assault and battery. Penalties for the Class 1 misdemeanor include a six-month confinement term.
If the assault and battery offense causes bodily injury on an individual, you’ll be charged with a Class 6 felony. Once convicted, you’ll be required to serve at least six months in confinement. Other potential Class 6 felony penalties include a maximum $2,500 fine and one to five years in prison.
- Aggravated Malicious Wounding
Virginia Code 18.2-51.2 defines aggravated malicious wounding as a crime that involves shooting, stabbing, cutting or wounding another person with the intent to kill, disable, disfigure or maim the victim. Being involved in this crime can make you a suspect in a Class 2 felony case. Committing such an act on a pregnant woman with intent to terminate the pregnancy also qualifies as aggravated malicious wounding. Punitive measures for a Class 2 felony in Virginia include life imprisonment/prison sentence of at least 20 years or fine not exceeding $100,000.
Strangulation entails impeding someone else’s respiration or blood circulation by unlawfully, intentionally and knowingly putting pressure on their neck without consent under VA Code 18.2-51.6. You’ll be charged with strangulation (a Class 6 felony) once the act results in bodily injury or wounding of the person. Class 6 felony penalties include a maximum $2,500 fine and a jail sentence (not exceeding 12 months) or one to five years in prison if your case isn’t tried by a jury.
Unless you’re a licensed private investigator or law enforcement officer performing your official duties, stalking in Virginia is a crime punishable under VA Code 18.2-60.3. You’ll be charged with stalking if you intentionally wanted to inflict bodily injury, sexual assault or death on the victim or you were aware that stalking puts the victim at risk of bodily injury, sexual assault or death. Such an offense is treated as a Class 1 misdemeanor.
- Violating Protective Orders
Protective orders are usually issued once you commit crimes such as assault and battery against a household or family member. Violating a provision of this court order may make you guilty of a Virginia Class 1 misdemeanor under Virginia Code 18.2-60.4. You’ll be sentenced to 60-day mandatory confinement for this violation. You may also be charged with a Class 6 felony if you had a deadly weapon (such as a firearm) on you when violating a provision in your protective order.
Find an Attorney Specialized in Assault and Battery Charges Near Me
You can only have a peace of mind when facing assault and battery charges if you have a legal counsel to help review your case and explain to you the laws relating to your case. With expertise areas including drug crimes, driving crimes, assault and battery, our lawyers can help you fully understand the legal procedures awaiting your case. We at Virginia Criminal Attorney have an impressive record helping clients like you across Fairfax and Northern Virginia fight their assault and battery charges. Reach out to our Fairfax Criminal Lawyer via 703-718-5533 and we can schedule a free consultation regarding your case.