If you are charged with a crime in Virginia after a violent incident, it can be very stressful. Whether you are charged with simple assault, assault and battery, or a malicious wounding related offense, you’ll be confronted with possible jail time and serious damage to your record and reputation. The allegations may be misconstrued – even flat out false, and the charges may not reflect what happened in your opinion.
It’s important to understand how the various assault offenses are applied in the Commonwealth of Virginia as well as your legal options. Regardless of your specific assault or wounding charge, it is always best to contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer and develop a strategy based on your unique circumstances.
With decades of experience helping people in situations just like yours, the Roanoke violent crimes attorneys with Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico know what to expect and how to secure the best possible outcome in your case. Contact us today for a free, initial consultation by calling (540) 343-9349 or submit our online form.
What is Assault & Battery in VA?
The terms “assault” and “battery” are sometimes used interchangeably, but according to Virginia law (§18.2-57) they are actually distinct offenses. While both are generally categorized as Class 1 misdemeanors, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500, the main difference between simple assault and assault and battery has to do with physical contact.
Specificity, simple assault in VA happens when someone’s actions or words make another individual fear for their physical well-being. For example, and depending on the precise details involved, if someone says, “I’m going hit you!” this could be an assault. Additionally, if someone silently, but menacingly shakes their fist in your face, this quiet intimidation could also be considered assault. Essentially, if an overt action or spoken threat instills fear in another, the one performing the act may be charged with assault.
When the next step is taken, and physical contact is made, this enhances the matter. An assault and battery in Virginia comprise both: the threat of harm and unlawful touching. For instance, if you aggressively shake your fist and proceed to strike someone, this is assault and battery. According to the Commonwealth of Virginia, battery is defined as the willful touching of another without legal excuse or justification in an angry, rude, insulting, or vengeful manner.
Like simple assault, assault and battery is a Class 1 misdemeanor; however, battery against someone based on their race, color, religion, or nationality can result in more significant penalties. Furthermore, if the person targeted for any of these reasons was injured due to the battery, this is sometimes called “hate crime assault and battery” and increases the offense to a Class six felony. As such, the crime is punishable by up to five years in prison and a max fine of $2,500.
When Assault & Battery Becomes Malicious Wounding?
Virginia also has more serious laws to deal with extreme battery cases, where people are injured. This is referred to as malicious wounding and under Va. Code § 18.2-51 if any person maliciously shoots, stabs, cuts, or wounds a person or by any means cause bodily injury, with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill, they shall be guilty of a Class 3 felony. This is a harshly punished classification, and a malicious wounding conviction can lead to between five and 20 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
While the language of the law might suggest that it was meant to deal with weapons or grievous injuries, and in many cases it does, these factors are not necessarily required. Since the statue identifies, ‘by any means’ and the fact that a bodily injury can simply mean the drawing of blood, the mindset of the offender and the facts involved matter a lot in malicious wounding cases. An example of a malicious wounding could be if someone cuts you off and you attack them. By going after someone, this could suggest that you acted maliciously. Furthermore, if one of your blows breaks the other person’s nose, this can be seen as a bodily injury, substantiating a malicious wounding charge.
As opposed to assault and battery, where a conviction only relies on proving that you intended to perform a harmful or offensive act, malicious wounding requires that the prosecutor show you acted with malice. Malice is when someone acts with a deliberate mind, under a formed design, or committed a purposeful and cruel act without any or without great provocation. This can be a difficult task for the prosecution and usually involves circumstantial facts like if the victim was defenseless, at a considerable disadvantage, how they were attacked, or if you targeted a vulnerable area like their head. Additionally, malice can be inferred in Virginia if a weapon or any instrument likely to cause significant harm or death is used.
Virginia law (§ 18.2-51.2(B)) also criminalizes more serious instances of malicious wounding where certain factors escalate the offense and the potential penalties. Specifically, aggravated malicious wounding encompasses all the elements of a typical malicious wounding case with the added factors of the victim being severely injured and caused to suffer permanent and significant physical impairment.
Aggravated malicious wounding is a Class 2 felony, punishable by no less than 20 years imprisonment, and a max fine of $100,000. In most cases, punishments are based on the facts involved, like the reason for the interaction, any possible justifications, and the severity of the harm or injury. Generally, the more significant the injury, the harsher the punishment. For instance, if the injury or harm to the victim was egregious enough, life in prison in a possibility. While this charge may seem reserved for heinous acts, it is also important to note that any permanent injury can fall into this classification. This means that the presence of a scar could conceivably raise the stakes if you’re facing charges.
Aggravated malicious wounding in Virginia is also similar to attempted murder since both relate to intending to cause serious harm to another. While the same act can result in either charge, aggravated wounding would follow in cases where someone did, in fact, cause harm. For attempted murder, no injury is required to substantiate the charge. Essentially, the only condition for attempted murder is their intent to kill the victim. As a result, aggravated malicious wounding is more serious than attempted murder since harm was actually done.
Va. Code § 18.2-51 also makes room for situations that do not reach the level of malicious or aggravated wounding. The statute in question also explains that if an act is done “unlawfully, but not maliciously,” they may be charged with the Class 6 felony of unlawful wounding. This removes the requirement that you acted with malice, but still engaged in an intentional act that caused harm. For instance, if a group of people provoked you and you threw a rock that hit someone in the face, it can be suggested that you acted in the heat of passion. This reduces the potential penalties to up to five years in prison and fines up to $2,500.
The Importance of a Defense Lawyer
As you can see, the offenses of assault and battery, unlawful wounding, malicious wounding, and aggravated wounding are extremely serious in Virginia with dire consequences if you’re convicted. A violent offense attached to your permanent criminal record can hinder the rest of your life. These charges are open to wide -range of interpretation and the unique factors involved will carry a great weight into how you are charged and what options are available to you.
At Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico, we know the importance of properly addressing these charges and how to tell your story, when and where it counts. To discuss a malicious wounding, assault, or aggravated wounding charge in Virginia, call (540) 343-9349 or request a free, confidential consultation online with a highly-skilled Roanoke criminal defense attorney.