There are more than 20 ways one might be charged with the crime of assault and battery in the state of Virginia. While the wording of the statutes varies, the general intent of assault laws is the same. As a public policy, the state of Virginia bans conduct that causes injury and/or fear based on the threat of injury. Because there is a wide variety of conduct and consequences that can rise to the level of violating Virginia's assault and battery laws, some of the more commonly charged crimes are discussed below.
Readers, however, are cautioned: This is only an overview of some types of assault and battery. Should you find yourself charged with assault and battery in any form, please contact us to discuss your situation further.
Felony Assault in Loudoun County, VA
One of the more serious assault crimes is a felony offense titled, “Shooting, Stabbing, Etc., with Intent to Maim, Kill, Etc.” This law covers two sets of circumstances.
- In the first, whoever intentionally but not maliciously shoots, stabs, cuts, or wounds any person or by any means causes bodily injury with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill, is guilty of a Class 6 felony. Class 6 felonies are punishable by terms of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than five years or confinement in jail for up to 12 months, at the discretion of the jury or judge. The fine is capped at $2,500.
- In the second instance, any person who maliciously shoots, stabs, cuts, or wounds any person, or by any means causes bodily injury with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill, is guilty of a Class 3 felony. Class 3 felonies are punishable by not less than five nor more than 20 years of imprisonment as well as a fine of not more than $100,000.
As you can see, the difference between the two circumstances includes the use or presence of maliciousness. The difference matters, given the stark contrast in potential penalties for each.
Malicious Wounding – An Aggravated Offense
Assault crimes are sometimes punished based on the conduct of the defendant alone. The injury of the victim, however, can increase the penalty. For example, if someone maliciously shoots, stabs, cuts, or wounds any person, or by any means causes a bodily injury, intending to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill, and the victim is severely injured, suffering permanent or significant impairment, the crime is a Class 2 felony, as opposed to a Class 3 felony. Class 2 felonies are punishable by not less than 20 years imprisonment. The punishment can increase from 20 years up to life in prison. The maximum fine remains at $100,000.
Simple Assault or Simple Assault & Battery in Virginia
Simple assault or simple assault and battery offenses are a misdemeanor. The difference between a simple assault and a simple assault and battery has to do with physical contact.
A simple assault occurs when one person acts or speaks in such a manner as to put another person in fear for his or her personal safety.
- For example, if someone says, “I'm going to punch you in the face!” this could be an assault, depending on other facts and circumstances surrounding the comment.
- Similarly, if someone raises a fist in anger, while in close proximity to and in the direction of another person, this silent but unmistakable threat of punching can constitute an assault.
Any “overt act” whether by speaking or by doing, done with the intent of creating a fear of harm in another person, is an assault.
An assault and battery involves both conducts: (1) a suggestion that a person is about to be harmed; and (2) subsequent intentional and unlawful touching. For example, if someone raises his or her fist and then proceeds to punch someone else in the face, this is assault and battery.
Battery is defined as:
- The willful touching
- Of another
- Without legal excuse or justification
- Done in a manner that is angry, rude, insulting, or vengeful.
Simple assault and assault and battery are both generally Class 1 misdemeanors. A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable for up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Defenses to Assault and Assault and Battery Charges
There are a few defenses one might employ in an assault or assault and battery case. Of course, every case is fact-dependent. What might make sense as a defense to one assault and battery case may not make sense in another assault case.
In self-defense cases, the accused acknowledges having engaged in conduct that constitutes assault or assault and battery but offers a defense: a legal justification or excuse for the alleged conduct. Legal justification means you:
- Were not the instigator of the confrontation;
- Had a reasonable fear of imminent danger of bodily harm; and
- Only used the amount of force reasonably necessary to protect against the perceived harm.
There is another form of self-defense available to defendants who may have instigated the initial confrontation. If you later did what they could to abandon the fight and retreat, but could not do so safely, then you could use the defense of self-defense.
Defense Based on the Facts
In addition to self-defense, you can have a defense based on the facts. For example, if one were to reach out, grab another person firmly by the arm, and yank that person backward, knocking him or her off his or her feet, this may be an assault and battery. However, if -- for example -- someone engages in this conduct to protect him or herself or another person from oncoming traffic while that person was wandering out into the crosswalk, this conduct is not considered an assault and battery.
In certain situations, both combatants choose to fight. The classic example is when two kids decide to "meet behind the school at the end of the day" to resolve a dispute. If presented properly, the mutual agreement to engage in fisticuffs arguably negates the element of an unlawful touching.
If You Are Charged with Assault or Assault and Battery
If you are charged with assault, assault and battery, or some subsection of the Virginia Code regarding assaults and bodily woundings, contact The Law Office of Charles F. Koehler, P.C. We offer personalized representation and compassionate criminal defense. We will examine the facts, looking for possible defenses or mitigating circumstances. Each case and alleged suspect deserves a thorough defense to criminal charges. Call today Charles F. Koehler today at (703) 669-5644 or complete our online form.