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Malicious Wounding and Unlawful Wounding in Fairfax County

Misunderstandings between people can get violent.  Many fights occur over people, property, and ideas that can get really out of hand or, even, accidentally.  Catching a Malicious Wounding charge in Virginia is a very bad situation that can lead to jail time or even prison time.  This charge requires the assistance of a competent criminal defense attorney because there is likely a bad injury involved.  We offer a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.  You can come into the office, call us, or simply use the contact form and we let you know how your case looks.

When someone is charged with Malicious Wounding in Fairfax County, it is clear from the beginning it is a serious charge because they are held without bond in the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.  This is because Malicious Wounding is a crime of violence and there is a presumption against bail by statute (see §19.2-120).  Our first order of business in these cases is to get the person out of jail by having a bond hearing.  Many cases in Fairfax County are simply not supported by the facts and we want to avoid a person sitting in jail for a Malicious Wounding charge since many of them do not go to trial.  For the ones that go to trial, we certainly want our client out so they can help in preparation of their case.

Malicious Wounding:  §18.2-51

Malicious Wounding is governed by §18.2-51 of the Virginia Code.  It says that if a person maliciously shoots, stabs, cuts, or otherwise wounds or causes bodily injury to any person with the intent to main, disfigure, disable, or kill, it is a Class 3 Felony.  As a result, there is a prison sentence of 5 to 20 years if convicted.  Because the language of this particular statute is so short there is a plethora of case interpreting it.  Accordingly, there are also a lot of defenses to this charge because of what the statute requires for purposes of proof.


To prove Malicious Wounding, the prosecutor must prove "Malice."  Malice is considered acting with the specific intent to commit a wrongful act without legal justification or excuse (think of "ill will").  Malice is generally deemed to be a type of act that involves anger, hatred, or revenge.  For example, mutual combat (fighting) is generally not a crime since both parties are agreeing to it.  However, bringing a baseball bat to a fist fight would likely result in a Malicious Wounding charge because there is no legal excuse or justification for using a weapon.  Now, if you add to those facts and the person with the baseball bat is five feet tall and weighs 100 pounds and the other combatant is seven feet tall and weighs 300 pounds, there is more of a legal justification because, without the bat, the smaller person could be seriously harmed.

Heat of Passion

It s not considered malice when the act arises from being provoked that reasonably produces an emotional state of mind.  And the circumstances must be as they appeared to the defendant but must also be judged as a reasonable person would've acted under the circumstances.  Think of walking in on a cheating spouse and the paramour gets beat up pretty badly right then and there.  This scenario is arguably not malicious wounding but may be more likely to be Unlawful Wounding or Simple Assault because there was not time to think about what is going on.  

Wounding and Bodily Injury

Case law has held that a wounding means a disruption or breach of the skin.  Bodily injury is more vague.  It is simply an act that otherwise harms the body and does not even require any observable wounds and includes internal injuries as well.  But there must be some residual effect and, realistically, some type of medical attention (to avoid unsubstantiated claims of injury).

Aggravated Malicious Wounding:  Serious Injuries

If the injuries are serious and cause permanent or significant physical impairment, you could be charged and convicted of Aggravated Malicious Wounding.  Under §18.2-51.2, Aggravated Malicious Wounding in Virginia is a Class 2 Felony.  Therefore, if convicted, there is a prison sentence of 20 years to life.  Common cases involve someone becoming paralyzed, permanent scarring from stitches, numbing in parts of the body, or sustaining a permanent limp.  If, however, the injury is not permanent, then it is more likely to be Malicious Wounding or something less.

Unlawful Wounding

Unlawful Wounding is similar to Malicious Wounding because it requires a wounding or bodily injury coupled with the intent to do so by intending to kill or permanently main or disable. However, there is no malice involved here.  Many of these cases are brought on because of fights where the injuries were excessive but the person was simply trying to defend themselves and overdid it.  The other cases are those in which the defense proves there was a "heat of passion" which excludes malice since a person isn't thinking clearly or had any time to deliberate before they quickly acted or reacted to something.

Unlawful Wounding is a Class 6 Felony which carries a prison sentence of 0 days to 5 years.  In many cases, the person is intially charged with Malicious Wounding and a plea deal is made to reduce the charge to Unlawful Wounding in exchange for the lighter charge (and lesser exposure to jail).  Whether or not this is an appropriate resolution depends on the facts of the case.

Malicious Wounding is a Serious Charge in Fairfax County

From the beginning of the case, the prosecutor will be trying to press the case forward because someone was seriously hurt.  In addition, the statute tells the Judge this is not a simple charge.  But not all Malicious Wounding charges are what they seem because everything happens for a reason.  It is rare that someone goes out, finds a stranger, and beats them up.  Many cases are self-defense and this is a valid defense to a Malicious Wounding charge.  In other cases, it may have been an accident which means there was no intent to hurt the other person.  Every case is different but every Malicious Wounding charge is serious.  

When you retain us, we work with you every step of the way from the initial phone call or office visit to the trial date and everything in-between.  We appear in court everyday and know all of the Judges and prosecutors.  We will thoroughly analyze your case and work towards the best result possible.

The truth about your case

We will not “sugar coat.” We will tell you exactly what you are facing and will give you the best and worst case scenarios. We are not here to scare you or to pull the wool over your eyes. We find many people calling us for a simple case where they have spoken to other lawyers and are now afraid. However, after speaking with those people and getting the facts, many times there is nothing to fear. We will tell you how things look and we will tell you the truth because we want happy clients. That’s you!

Letnick Law Office
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