Assault and Battery
Assault and Battery Defense
The criminal offense of Assault and Battery is a Class One Misdemeanor in Virginia. §18.2-57 of the Virginia Code states that the maximum penalty upon conviction is 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
If the defendant “intentionally selects the person against whom a simple assault is committed because of his race, religious conviction, color or national origin, the penalty upon conviction shall include a term of confinement of at least six months, 30 days of which shall be a mandatory minimum term of confinement.”
Virginia Assault and Battery Laws
The Virginia Code further states that Assault and Battery is a felony when the defendant intentionally selects the person assaulted based on their race, religious conviction, color or national origin and the individual sustains bodily injury. The Code designates the crime as a Class 6 felony, punishable by imprisonment for one year to five years or, alternatively, confinement in jail for up to 12 months, and/or a fine of up to $2,500. Subdivision B of §18.2-57 specifies a minimum term of confinement of six months, with 30 days of that sentence mandatory.
Additional Provisions for Assault and Battery
There are other provisions in §18.2-57 which make the charge of Assault and Battery a felony. Assault and Battery against a judge, police officer, correctional officer, firefighter or rescue squad member is deemed a Class 6 felony under subsection C. It is punishable by imprisonment of one year to five years or, alternatively, confinement in jail for up to 12 months, and/or a fine of up to $2,500. There is a mandatory, minimum term of confinement of six months.
Assault and Battery Against a Teacher
Assault and Battery against a teacher, principal or guidance counselor remains a Class One Misdemeanor under subsection D. A defendant may receive up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. However, the Code states that the sentence shall include at least 15 days in jail, with two days of the sentence term mandatory. The mandatory, minimum sentence is increased to six months if a firearm or other weapon is used in the offense.
Defenses Against Assault and Battery Charges
1. Accord and Satisfaction
The first major defense is called Accord and Satisfaction. This defense is available under §19.2-151 of the Virginia Code. The alleged victim may agree in writing to dismiss the charges upon agreement of the parties. Usually, this involves a financial settlement of damages. Accord and Satisfaction allows the existing arrest to be expunged from the record of the accused. It is not available when the Assault and Battery was against a law enforcement officer or a family or household member.
2. Peace Bond
A Peace Bond is another method to obtain a nolle prosequi (dismissal) of an Assault and Battery charge. Virginia Code Section §19.2-19 is the law that applies to this situation. The Peace Bond is a pledge to peacefully observe certain terms and conditions for a period of one year. This usually includes no aggressive behavior or deliberate contact with the alleged victim and their family. If there is a violation of any condition, the amount of the bond may be forfeited to the county or local jurisdiction. The amount of a bond is in the range of $1,000 to $2,000, and is usually unsecured (meaning that no money is actually required to be paid upfront as security). The original charges are nolle prosequi (dismissed) at the hearing when the Peace Bond pledge is entered. The charge may be re-filed by the prosecutor within one year if there is a violation of conditions.
3. General Deferral With Conditions for Dismissal
Assault and Battery charges may also be informally deferred for dismissal with no plea on the record. This agreement is normally made only with the prosecutor handling the case. The case may be continued for several months (without a plea) for completion of community service, good behavior, counseling, anger management and/ or payment of restitution to the alleged victim. At the next court date, the charge may be dismissed if all the terms of the deferral have been completed. This type of agreement leaves the original arrest eligible for expungement from the criminal record, since no plea to the charge is in the court file. The case would be continued for six months to one year for the client to be of general good behavior and comply with the deferral terms.
4. Self Defense or Defense of Other Persons
Also, Assault and Battery charges may involve an affirmative plea of Self-Defense or Defense of Others. The defendant may assert this defense when he reasonably feared death or serious bodily injury to himself/herself or someone else in the immediate vicinity. The force used by the defendant must be in proportion to the threat presented by the alleged victim. This is a good defense in appropriate cases, and may result in dismissal of the charge.
5. Mutual Combat
This defense exists If two people voluntarily enter into a fight of their own agreement. It is an uncommon defense, but one that is seen in the General District Court or Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on occasion. Usually pops up when two people consent to resolve their differences in a physical altercation.
Proving Charges Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant charged with assault and battery intended to make offensive contact with the victim or cause the victim to apprehend and/or fear offensive contact. If the contact was unintentional, or even unavoidable, the government cannot prove the case. The criminal intent of the defendant, or mens rea, is an essential element of the charge.
Reduction of the Charge to a Non-Violent Offense
If the Assault and Battery is charged as a misdemeanor or felony, counsel may be able to negotiate a reduction to a non-violent offense. Trespass and Disorderly Conduct are examples of negotiated dispositions that help a client keep a criminal record free of violent offenses. If the charge cannot be dismissed due to the facts, this is a good alternative. The client is then able to file a Petition for Expungement of the original assault and battery arrest to remove it from the criminal record. This type of outcome is beneficial for clients concerned with their employment and immigration status.
Contact a Fairfax County and Prince William County Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
If you need help with a pending Assault and Battery charge in Fairfax County, Prince William County, the City of Alexandria, Arlington County, Loudoun County, Herndon, the Town of Vienna, the City of Falls Church, Stafford County, Fauquier County, or any other location in the state of Virginia, contact Attorney Yeargan for immediate assistance. He will review the facts of your case and develop an effective defense strategy. His firm represents clients throughout the state of Virginia and is well known as a tough and aggressive advocate. Call his office directly at 703-352-9044 or send Attorney Yeargan a note through the contact tab on this website today to discuss your case and your best legal options.