In Virginia, assault is the crime of threatening to harm another person. Battery is the crime of unlawful touching or striking of another person. These two offenses often occur together—which is why you may hear the term ‘assault and battery’.
As a baseline, assault and battery are misdemeanor offenses in Virginia. However, an alleged offender may be charged with a felony when certain criteria are met. Here, our Fairfax assault defense lawyers explain the most important things you need to know about Virginia law.
Virginia Law: Simple Assault and Battery is a Misdemeanor
While assault and battery are not technically the same offense, they are found in the same section of Virginia law. Under Code of Virginia § 18.2-57, simple assault and battery is a Class 1 misdemeanor offense. That is not to say it is a minor criminal issue. Indeed, misdemeanor assault and battery can carry a maximum penalty of up to 12 months in prison and a $2,500 fine. Beyond that, a conviction or guilty plea may also carry other collateral consequences, such as the loss of a clean criminal record.
Felony Assault and Battery in Virginia
Under Virginia law, an assault and battery charge may be upgraded to a felony charge in certain situations. As a general rule, the factors that will determine whether or not assault is a felony involve the extent of injury to the victim, the motivation of the defendant, or the identity of the alleged victim. Here are several common scenarios when assault and battery can be charged as a felony in Virginia.
- Hate Crimes: If assault or battery is deemed a ‘hate crime’, the crime may be charged as a class 6 felony. To sustain this type of felony charge, a prosecutor must prove that the defendant caused physical harm to the victim based, at least in part, on their race, color, national origin, or religion.
- Protected Employees: Under Virginia law, assault and battery may also be charged as a felony if the victim is a protected employee. Most protected employees are first responders and health care workers. Among other occupations, this includes police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and other emergency services personnel.
- Domestic Violence: Assault or battery against a household member (domestic violence) may be charged as a Class 6 felony if the alleged offense has a previous history of domestic violence convictions.
- Malicious Wounding Charges: Defendants who are alleged to have intentionally caused a serious injury to another person may be charged with a felony under Virginia’s malicious wounding statute. Under Virginia law (Code of Virginia § 18.2-51), malicious wounding is a felony offense that occurs when a defendant shoots, stabs, cuts, or otherwise harms a person with malicious intent to maim, disable, or kill. It is a very serious criminal offense. Aggravated malicious wounding, where the victim sustains a permanent injury (even just a scar!) carries 20 years to life in prison.
Contact Our Virginia Assault Defense Attorneys for Immediate Help
At Whitestone Young, PC, our Fairfax criminal defense lawyers are aggressive, focused advocates for our clients. We will protect your rights and your future. If you are facing felony assault charges, we are more than ready to help. For a completely confidential, no commitment review of your case, please contact us now. From our Fairfax office, we are well-positioned to defend clients against assault charges throughout Northern Virginia, including in Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church, Tysons, Warrenton, and Leesburg.