Assault and Battery charges can be easy charges to catch in Fairfax County. All it takes is a harmful or offensive touching, no matter how minor the altercation. Many times, it's over a simple dispute that gets heated. Other times it's a mutual combat type situation where someone gets beat up and, with corroborating pictures and the “victim's” statements, an officer sees an Assault and Battery. However, the officer is not usually present during the incident and an individual would do well to have a lawyer represent them during the case. We offer a Free Consultation to discuss your case. Give us a call at 703-273-4100 or use the contact form below.
Assault and Battery
Assault and battery is defined under §18.2-57 of the Virginia Code as any person who commits a simple assault or a battery is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Technically an Assault is different from a Battery. Assault is an attempted Battery that creates a reasonable apprehension in the victim that a harmful or offensive touching is either about to occur or it is clear the perpetrator has the specific intent to commit a Battery irrespective of whether or not the victim knows it. On the other hand, a Battery is a completed harmful or offensive touching. The Courts, including Fairfax County, have historically used both terms synergistically to define the same act and simply call the crime Assault and Battery.
Additionally, if the assault is committed due to race, religion, or national origin, there is a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail. An assault of an individual knowing or having reason to know that the individual is a full-time or part-time employee of any public or private elementary or secondary school shall result in a mandatory minimum of 2 days in jail. An assault of an individual knowing or having reason to know that the individual is a health care provider engaged in performance of their duties shall result in a mandatory minimum of 2 days in jail.
There is a common misconception that a victim can have an Assault and Battery charges dropped. Please note that this is inaccurate. A victim is simply a witness for the Commonwealth and, while these sentiments can certainly help a case, it is ultimately not up to them. We have represented clients in the past where the victim shows up to the court date and does not wish to proceed and, yet, we end up having a trial because the prosecutor wishes to proceed with the case. We recommend you retain a lawyer to avoid a conviction or, worse, going to jail even when you were told by the victim that they don't want to proceed with the charge. As indicated below, we can work out another arrangement if necessary to ensure you are not convicted of the charge.
Defenses to Assault
If the force used is only which is necessary to repel the attacker, Virginia recognizes self defense. Generally, it is a “like-force” standard. For example, an individual being attacked by punches may repel the offender by punches. However, the individual being attacked cannot repel simple punches by stabbing the offender unless, for example, they are receiving repeated blows to the head and the individual is left with no choice. Such arguments are factual issues that are within the discretion of the Court or Jury to determine whether the self-defense used was excessive or not.
Mutual Combat is a tricky defense to Assault and Battery. It must be proven that both parties consented to a fight. This defense is tough to properly portray to a Court because the victim is likely to testify that they did not consent to the fight. Since the Court was not present during the altercation, a one-sided argument that both parties consented to the fight is, many times, a losing proposition. This defense is viable in those cases where the victim is asking the charges to be dropped on account of this but the prosecution does not wish to drop the charge so they can then testify they agreed to the fight.
Dismissal by Accord and Satisfaction
An Assault and Battery charge can be dismissed by an agreement pursuant to Virginia Code §19.2-151. The statute says that when a person is charged with an Assault and Battery or other misdemeanor, if the person injured appears before the court, acknowledges in writing that they've received satisfaction for the injury, the court may, in its discretion, dismiss the prosecution upon payment of court costs by the Defendant. Generally, this type of situation arises where the injured party receives compensation for their injuries. It is within the discretion of the court whether or not to accept the accord and satisfaction but will in most cases.
In some cases, where the victim consents, the lawyer may negotiate an arrangement with the prosecutor where a peace bond is executed in exchange for the Assault and Battery charge being dismissed. A peace bond is in the nature of a conditional fine that must be paid if the peace bond is violated. In these types of cases, an unsecured bond somewhere in the neighborhood of $1500 to $2500 is agreed to and entered as a court order. Conditions will be required which are usually keeping the peace for one year with the additional requirement that the perpetrator have no contact with the victim. If this requirement is met during the year, the money will not be required to be paid to the Court and the charge will remain dismissed.
Hiring a Lawyer for your Assault and Battery Case:
Assault and Battery charges are a type of misdemeanor where jail time is a real possibility. In addition, a conviction for Assault and Battery is certainly not something you want to have on your record. Contact us for a free consultation and we would be happy to discuss the case and your available options.