Assault and battery are different crimes in Virginia, but these crimes are related, and the penalties for both can include prison time and fines. If you have been charged with assault, battery, or both crimes, it is important to understand the charges, your potential defenses, and why you need to work with a dedicated Richmond criminal defense attorney.
Assault and Battery Crimes and Penalties
While the words assault and battery are often used together, the terms have the following separate legal meanings in Virginia:
- A battery is the intentional and offensive or harmful touching of another person without permission. For example, punching another person (without permission) is a battery.
- An assault is a verbal or physical threat of immediate physical harm. For example, it may be an assault if you say, “I’m going to punch you” or you raise your fist as if to punch someone.
Typically, the penalties for simple assault and battery are a criminal record, up to one year in jail, and a fine.
However, the penalties for an assault or battery may be different if the victim:
- Is a family member. A first assault against a family member or member of your household is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which could bring a prison term of up to 12 months. If you have two or more convictions of assault against a family member or member of your household within the previous 20 years, you can be charged with a Class 6 felony, and you may be sentenced to one to five years in prison.
- Is a healthcare provider. If you know the person is a healthcare provider in a hospital, emergency room, or any facility providing emergency medical care, and the person is engaged in work activities, your sentence must include 15 days in jail, two days of which are a mandatory minimum term.
- Works in law enforcement or certain other protected professions. If you know that the victim is a judge, magistrate, law enforcement officer, correctional officer, firefighter, or emergency medical technician (EMT) who is working or performing official duties at the time of the alleged assault or battery, you are facing a Class 6 felony. The potential penalty for a Class 6 felony is one to five years in prison with a six-month mandatory minimum term.
- Works at a school. If you know the victim is employed at an elementary or a secondary school and was working at the time of the alleged assault or battery, you may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. If you are convicted, your sentence must include 15 days in jail, two days of which are a mandatory minimum term. If you have a gun on school property, the mandatory minimum sentence is six months confinement.
- Was targeted because of the person’s race, religion, color, or national origin. The minimum sentence for this crime is six months in prison with a mandatory 30-day mandatory minimum term.
You may also be required to pay significant fines if you’re convicted of assault and/or battery.
If You’re Charged With Assault or Battery
If the charges against you are dismissed or you are found not guilty at trial, you will not serve prison time, pay a fine, or have a criminal record. With so much at stake, it is important to consider all defenses for assault and battery charges. Your defenses could include:
- Prosecutors cannot prove the crime.
- You lacked intent.
- You were acting in self-defense.
- You were defending someone else.
- You had the consent of the alleged victim.
Because every assault and battery case is unique, it’s important to work with a criminal defense lawyer to build the appropriate defenses for yours. Our attorneys will develop a realistic defense strategy for your case and regularly communicate with you throughout the legal process. Call us at 804-396-3329, or fill out our contact form to learn more.