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Malicious Unlawful Wounding

Breaking it down

Malicious wounding in Virginia is shooting, stabbing, cutting, or wounding someone, or causing them bodily injury, with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill.

  • Malicious wounding requires malice, a state of mind in which you intend to cause harm or are so reckless that you don’t care if you cause harm
  • When no malice is present, unlawful wounding may be charged
  • When the malicious wounding causes permanent or significant impairment, the offense may be aggravated malicious wounding
  • All forms of the offense are felonies

If you’re involved in a fight in Virginia and end up injuring someone using a weapon — a knife, a broken beer bottle, a baseball bat, or a wrench, for example — you may find yourself charged with a very serious felony. There are also circumstances in which the use of a bare fist can result in a malicious unlawful wounding charge.

There are a few ways that you can be charged in Virginia when you wound someone with the intent to harm or kill. In general, the crime is malicious wounding, but can be reduced to unlawful wounding under some circumstances, or elevated to the more serious crime of aggravated malicious wounding under other circumstances.

All three forms of the crime are felonies, and will result in your having a permanent record as a violent criminal if you’re convicted. You also may face a significant prison sentence and as much as $100,000 in fines.

But what if the fight wasn’t your fault, or you were only defending yourself when you picked up that beer bottle or wrench? An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you tell your side of the story — and possibly help you get an acquittal or less severe penalties than you might otherwise face.

Malicious Wounding

Virginia Code §18.2-51 defines the basic crime of malicious wounding as shooting, stabbing, cutting, or wounding another person, or injuring another person by any means, with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill.

The key part of malicious unlawful wounding is the malice, which is a frame of mind in which you want to harm others. Sometimes malice also can mean being so reckless that you don’t care whether your actions result in someone being harmed.

When malice is present, the offense is a Class 3 felony, punishable by five to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

For a charge of malicious wounding, a prosecutor must prove:

  • You shot, stabbed, cut, wounded, or injured the other person’s body
  • With the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill
  • You did so with malice

Unlawful Wounding

Virginia Code §18.2-51 goes on to say that when you stab, cut, or wound another person, or cause another person bodily harm, unlawfully and intentionally — but without malice — the offense is a Class 6 felony. That class of felony generally is punishable by one to five years in prison and a maximum $2,500 fine. Judges and juries may impose a sentence of less than one year at their discretion.

For a charge of unlawful wounding, a prosecutor must prove only that:

  • You shot, stabbed, cut, wounded, or injured the other person’s body
  • With the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill

Aggravated Malicious Wounding

When the victim of a malicious wounding is permanently or significantly impaired, the offense is a Class 2 felony called aggravated malicious wounding, under Virginia Code §18.2-51.2.

The statute also makes it a Class 2 felony when the victim of a malicious wounding is a pregnant woman who is severely injured and permanently or significantly impaired because of the injury.  If your actions cause the pregnancy to end involuntarily, that also may be charged as aggravated malicious wounding.

The general penalty for a Class 2 felony is 20 years to life in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

Malicious Wounding of Public Safety Officials

Virginia Code §18.2-51.1 provides for special penalties when the victim of a malicious or unlawful wounding is a public safety officer performing his or her job. Public safety officers include:

  • Law enforcement officers
  • Firefighters
  • Search and rescue personnel
  • Emergency medical service providers

A conviction for malicious wounding under this statute is an unclassified felony punishable by five to 30 years in prison — an increase of 10 years compared to the more general form of malicious wounding — and up to a $100,000 fine. The sentence must include at least two years of mandatory imprisonment.

The unlawful wounding of a public safety officer is a Class 6 felony carrying the same general punishment as the more general form of the offense, but with a requirement that you serve at least one year in prison.

Facing malicious unlawful wounding charges in Virginia?

If you’ve been charged with a crime related to malicious wounding in Virginia, the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico can help evaluate the details of your case and your options. For an appointment at our Roanoke office, call us at .