It is easy to understand how someone can be caught up in a heated situation. Tempers can flare, actions can be misinterpreted, and circumstances can be misconstrued. In some cases, you may even be misidentified or falsely accused. It may seem like an easy fix to just sit down with police officers if you’ve been accused of a violent act like malicious wounding, but if someone suffered an injury – you need to be very careful about how your story is told.
The charges associated with malicious wounding in VA are open to interpretation and rely on several factors, but the Commonwealth takes these cases seriously. It is common to be caught in a complex situation, where the law, the allegations, and your perception of events do not seem to match. It will take a carefully considered approach from a veteran criminal defense lawyer to ensure a single incident doesn’t destroy your life.
Do not take a malicious wounding or any violent charge lightly. Instead, consult the Roanoke criminal defense lawyers with Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico. Let us explain your rights, review your options, and develop a plan that puts you in the best possible position.
Virginia Malicious Wounding Charges & Penalties
The Virginia criminal code( § 18.2-51) defines malicious wounding as the shooting, stabbing, cutting, or wounding of any person with malice by any means that causes bodily injury, with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill. The exact charge and corresponding penalties vary depending on the unique characteristics and evidence involved in your case, but you will generally face three variations of the offense:
- Malicious Wounding – This is the basic offense where someone is injured through a violent act, carried out maliciously or in a frame of mind where you wanted to harm others. When malice is present, this is a Class three felony, punishable by five to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
- Unlawful Wounding – This is a lesser wounding offense and deals with intentional bodily injuries but without the presence of malice. These typically result if the accused was provoked or acted in the heat of passion. As a Class six felony, unlawful wounding carries up to five years in prison and fines of $2,500.
- Aggravated Malicious Wounding – This is an escalated wounding offense, reserved for instances where the victim is permanently or significantly impaired. What constitutes a permanent or significant impairment is debatable, but as a Class two felony, a conviction carries a sentence ranging from a minimum of 20 years to a lifetime prison sentence and up to $100,000.
Potential Malicious Wounding Defense Strategies
Even if you acted regrettably in a situation that led to a malicious wounding charge, a conviction for the offense originally applied to your case is not a foregone conclusion. You still have legal protections and options. This can lead to the possible dismissal of the charges, a reduction to a more appropriate offense, like unlawful wounding or assault, and manageable consequences that accurately reflect what happened.
However, these outcomes are far more realistic if you retain an experienced criminal defense attorney with a successful track record of defending against malicious wounding charges in Virginia. After reviewing your situation, your attorney can asses the following defense options and develop a plan aimed at reducing or eliminating your malicious wounding charge.
Self Defense / Affirmative Defense
It is a well-understood concept that people have the right to defend themselves, but actually raising this defense in malicious wounding cases is more complicated than you might suspect. Specifically, you can use necessary force to protect yourself or others from imminent harm, and if your actions can be shown to be justifiable, you can avoid conviction. But what is necessary and imminent are key factors to consider.
For example, if someone attacks you and your response is to jump on top of them and repeatably strike them, causing a serious injury, this level of force may be considered disproportionate to the fear of harm you experienced. Additionally, if you were involved in mutual combat or provoked the encounter, you must completely disengage, and attempt to avoid further violence before claiming a new attack required you to defend yourself.
An affirmative defense is not applicable in every situation, but when the facts are on your side a self-defense argument in a malicious wounding case can be very effective. This is particularly true because Virginia allows evidence regarding a victim’s prior history, which may suggest they were significantly involved or caused the incident, even if their history was previously unknown to you.
Establish a Lack of Malice / Intent
According to the statute, malice and intent are essential elements to support a malicious wounding -related charge. For instance, if you can establish that the injury in question was accidental rather than intentional, the wounding should not be seen as unlawful. Further, if your actions lacked malice and carried out in a heat of passion, an attorney can argue to have a malicious or aggravated wounding charge reduced to something more in line with what occurred.
Refute the Severity or Permanence of the Injuries
Since an aggravated malicious wounding charge requires a victim to sustain a permanent or significant injury, if this severity can be disputed it can lead to a reduction. For example, if a victim suffered an injury that necessitated medical treatment, but this follow-up care was neglected and created an enduring impairment, you should not be held responsible for their inaction. Furthermore, if your attorney can show that the injuries were not as severe as originally believed, you can avoid the harshest consequences and reduce the impact on your life.
Argue Reasonable Doubt
A criminal conviction in Virginal requires prosecutors to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is typically a difficult burden for the Commonwealth. If there are inconsistencies in the case or evidence to suggest that you were misidentified, a skilled attorney can reveal these weaknesses and present that you are not the guilty party or that your actions did not result in bodily injury.
Contact a Roanoke Violent Crimes Lawyer
At Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico, we know the penalties you are facing and how to defend against malicious wounding crimes in Virginia. No matter the circumstances, don’t resign yourself to fate. The police and prosecutors may not be interested in what you believe led to your charges, but we are passionate about making sure your story is told.
With a proactive defense, you can fight for an acquittal in court, the dismissal of the charges, or a reduced outcome that removes the dire costs of a violent conviction. To discuss the best possible defense to you malicious wounding charge or any violent felony, call us today at (540) 343-9349 or online to schedule a free, confidential consultation.