Colonial Heights Assault Lawyer

Assault, and its cousin charge, battery, are perhaps the most commonly misunderstood portions of Virginia’s criminal code. Even though these are among the most common charges that Virginia’s criminal courts deal with, many people do not understand the essential differences between these crimes.

A knowledge of how these crimes are defined and the potential penalties upon conviction are essential to a strong defense. The Colonial Heights assault lawyer understands how assault laws work in Virginia’s criminal courts. The experienced defense attorney works to defend individuals facing these charges and maintain their rights and freedoms.

Virginia’s Assault Laws

The crimes of assault and battery are two separate, but related charges. Unlike many states, Virginia does not define these acts in their statutes. Instead, the Commonwealth relies on the common law for a definition.

Assault is when a person takes an action that places another person in reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm. For example, threatening to punch a person in the face and making a fist would certainly fit this example. So too would swinging at a person and missing.
The important thing to know here is that a person does not need to actually make contact to be charged with assault. When that contact does occur, the act changes to the battery.

Battery

Battery is any form of unwelcome touching that is deemed to be harmful or offensive. If that same person we talked about above makes contact with the punch, they will be charged with battery. However, simply touching a person on the shoulder to get their attention cannot be reasonably construed as being harmful or offensive, so this is not a battery.

One can easily see how assault and battery are charged together. If a person makes threats to hit another person and then does, they have both made threats against another and caused harmful contact. This is a classic example of assault and battery. However, Virginia law essentially treats the two acts as one crime for the purposes of prosecution.

Consequences and Penalties

Simple assault, or assault and battery, is classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor under VA Code 18.2-57. This means that a conviction under this statute carries a maximum jail term of up to one year along with a fine of not more than $2,500.00.

However, there is any number of circumstances where an assault charge may be tried as a more serious offense. One prominent example of this is when the assault is committed against a judge, police officer, or prison guard.

A conviction under these circumstances is a Class 6 felony that carries a minimum jail term of one year with a maximum penalty of five years. In some circumstances, a judge or jury may decide to reduce the penalty to a maximum of 12 months in jail. Other examples of aggravating factors in assaults include:

  • Malicious Wounding of the Victim
  • Strangulation
  • Use of a Firearm During an Assault
  • Poisoning

More information about classes of crimes and potential penalties can be found in VA Code 18.2-10 and VA Code 18.2-11.

Defending Against Assault Charges

As with any criminal accusation, the burden lies on the prosecutor to not only prove that the defendant did the act, but also possessed the required mental state. In other words, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant meant to do the crime. Charges of assault and battery are no different. The prosecutor must prove malicious intent when inappropriate contact was made. Examples where someone merely wanted to get another person’s attention to ask a question, or an accidental slap when a person was unaware of their surroundings will make for a difficult case to prove.

A local lawyer works to discredit prosecutors’ cases against individuals. The individual examines both police reports and witness statements, working to disprove both the idea that the assault occurred and that the accused intended to harm others. With any conviction for assault carrying a potential jail term and heavy fines, the consequences may be harsh. Contact a Colonial Heights assault lawyer today to take the first step towards protecting your future.

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Nicholas Braswell Attorney at Law

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