Virginia is one of many states that combines assault and battery in the criminal context. In the civil law world, assault refers to the act of threatening harm, and battery refers to the actual harm caused in an attack. Virginia has simplified the law so that assault charges are designed to cover both concepts.
To prove that a defendant has committed an assault, a Virginia prosecutor must prove several elements. The prosecutor must prove that you intended to inflict harm on a person, and that you took the necessary steps to make that harm happen. An experienced Virginia assault lawyer will be able to negotiate with the government and build a strong case in your defense.
Though a threat alone might constitute some other violation, it will not necessarily register as an assault under the Virginia criminal statutes. For those interested in more information on how Virginia codifies assault, they can find that information in Section 18.2-57 of the Virginia criminal code.
One of the key elements that a prosecutor will need to prove is that you intended to inflict the harm that eventually took place. In some cases, prosecutors will try to use a person’s recklessness against them to show intent. An attorney can work with the facts of a case to create the reasonable doubt that is necessary for an acquittal. If the harm was the result of an accident, then assault charges should not stand. A showing of accidental harm without a showing of recklessness cannot provide the basis for a Virginia assault charge.
Qualities to look for in a Virginia Assault Attorney
When you are in the market for an attorney, you should look for a person who has experience working on similar assault cases. Attorneys who have handled many assault cases understand what is needed to prepare a strong defense. Every case is different, but an attorney who has dealt with a large amount of assault cases will be able to draw upon past experiences to represent you with zeal. A Virginia assault lawyer will communicate with you and provide you with a host of potential defense strategy options.
Evidence in Assault Cases
Assault cases can be extremely complicated. In the context of assault, a lawyer may look to prove that you were acting in self-defense during the incident. If the assault charges are brought in the wake of a fight, then you might have success in proving that you were simply defending yourself. In these cases, it is very important to find some piece of evidence to corroborate the story.
Unfortunately for aggrieved defendants, it is often the first person who contacts the police who gets the better side of justice. The sooner you contact an assault attorney, the stronger defense you can prepare. Your Virginia assault lawyer can hunt for the important evidence that might clear your name.
Penalties for Assault in Virginia
Assault is a crime where prosecutors and judges have a tremendous amount of leeway in the punishment they can seek. The punishment will ultimately depend on a number of factors, including the seriousness of the act, the victim and his occupation, the injury suffered by the victim, the defendant’s criminal history, and any circumstances surrounding the act. The majority of assault cases are classified as simple assault. These are misdemeanors that can be punished with a year in jail. In most cases, prosecutors will not seek jail time for misdemeanor charges.
In some cases, assault can be charged as a felony. This depends on whether aggravating factors are present. If a person commits assault with a deadly weapon, then a felony charge may follow. If great bodily harm is intended or inflicted, then the assault will almost certainly be charged as a felony.
Each case is considered on its merits, and a host of different factors apply. Additionally, it is important to understand the court will impose mandatory jail time if the victim of an assault holds any of the following jobs:
- School guidance counselor
- Emergency medical personnel
- School administrator
In addition, there is a punishment enhancement if the assault was committed against a public servant. In Virginia, public servant is defined as a judge, a police or peace officer, a prison or jail officer, or an emergency service professional. If the assault is against one of those individuals, then the prosecutor will have to prove that you knew that the victim was a public servant.
In addition, the prosecutor may try to prove that you had reason to believe that the victim was a public servant. People charged with assault of any kind would be wise to get a top lawyer. Having a Virginia assault lawyer can help you avoid the enhanced charges and punishments that are often tacked on.
Hate Crime Enhancements
An assault can also be enhanced with a hate crime add-on. If the victim of an accused assault was intentionally chosen on the basis of religion, race, or origin, the assault can be punished as a Class 6 felony. This charge carries a one month minimum prison sentence.
Understanding Assault in the Criminal Context
Assault is a word that is often used in a non-criminal context, and many people believe they understand the basics of what an assault entails, but in the criminal context, an assault can mean many different things. If you are charged or investigated for assault, you need a full understanding of what you are up against. You need to know the various penalties and the many ways the prosecutor can enhance an assault charge. You should also understand how this type of case can impact your life.
A Virginia assault attorney can help you understand the charge, and work with you to ensure that your rights are thoroughly protected.