Assault and battery in Virginia can have serious consequences under any circumstances, but domestic violence charges in Virginia may carry even more serious penalties. Any assault and battery against a family or household member is a Class 1 misdemeanor in the state of Virginia. A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Virginia Domestic Violence Laws
In Virginia, you may be charged with assault and battery against a family member under a wider range of circumstances than you might expect. While many people think of domestic violence as a crime perpetrated against a spouse or live-in partner, the Virginia statute extends much further, taking in many victim classes.
For purposes of this law, “family or household member” includes:
- The defendant's spouse, whether or not the spouses are living together.
- The defendant's former spouse, whether or not they are living together.
Regardless of residence, the defendant's:
- Siblings (including half siblings)
If sharing a residence with the defendant, the defendant's
- Regardless of residence or marital status, any person who shares a child with the defendant.
Regardless of current residence, any person who cohabited with the defendant within the past 12 months, and any children of either the victim or defendant who reside with the victim also qualify.
Being Charged With Domestic Violence in Virginia
If you've been charged with a domestic violence offense in Virginia, you should speak with a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A criminal lawyer can help you understand the charges and can choose the best course of action for your circumstances, whether that means going to trial, entering into a plea agreement or pursuing a deferral. Deciding on an effective legal defense strategy will be essential.
Deferred Prosecution in Domestic Violence Cases
In some cases, the court may defer prosecution and place the defendant in a domestic violence case on probation without conviction under certain circumstances. A defendant who was an adult at the time of the offense may be eligible for deferral if he or she has no prior convictions relating to assault and battery against a family member, and has not had a previous charge for such offense deferred and dismissed.
To receive a deferral, either the defendant must plead guilty or the court must making a finding that the evidence is sufficient to find the defendant guilty of a violation of the assault and battery against a family or household member law. The defendant must also consent to the deferral. Conditions may include evaluation and successful completion of recommended treatment or education programs. If the defendant successfully completes the probationary period and fulfills all conditions, the case will be dismissed. If, on the other hand, the defendant violates the conditions of the deferral, a conviction may be entered against him based on the earlier plea or finding.
A local criminal defense attorney can advise you as to eligibility for a deferral and what will be required to successfully complete the period of probation, as well as negotiating with the prosecuting attorney for workable terms that could increase your ability to successfully complete the deferral period and receive a dismissal.
Any domestic violence crime is serious, but repeat offenders face even more serious penalties. When the defendant charged with assault and battery against a family or household member has two prior convictions for the same crime within the same 20-year period as the current charge, the crime becomes a Class 6 felony rather than a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Two prior convictions for certain other types of assault and battery will also suffice to increase the charge to a Class 6 felony. Conviction of a Class 6 felony can result in a sentence of one to five years in prison.
Protective Orders in Domestic Violence Cases
When a warrant is issued for assault and battery against a family or household member, the law requires that the magistrate enter an emergency order of protection unless the accused is a minor. Violating a protective order in a domestic violence case can have serious consequences. If you have been charged with a domestic violence offense, be sure to talk to your criminal defense attorney about the terms of the protective order so that you fully understand the restrictions and can avoid further legal complications.
Free Consultations Are Available!
Whether it's a first offense that may qualify for deferred prosecution or a successive offense that may carry more serious penalties, working with an experienced Fairfax criminal defense lawyer to help protect your rights and options is the first step toward making the best decision to protect yourself and your family. For assistance with domestic violence cases, contact The Law Office of Wilfred Yeargan today. Attorney Wilfred Yeargan can analyze your case and advise you on what your best option is moving forward. We offer free consultations – call directly or send an online message today.