In Virginia, the crimes of assault (physically threatening to hurt someone) and battery (causing injury) may be charged as felonies, depending on the circumstances. Assaults and batteries that can be charged as felonies include hate crimes, domestic violence, assaults against certain employees, and batteries by prisoners.
These crimes may also be charged as misdemeanors. For more information on misdemeanor crimes, see Virginia Assault and Battery Laws.
Injuring someone with or without the intent to kill or cause very serious injury is also a crime in Virginia. For more information on these crimes, see Malicious and Unlawful Wounding in Virginia.
Assault, Battery, and Assault and Battery
Virginia’s laws refer to the crimes of assault and assault and battery (sometimes referred to as battery). The crime of battery occurs when the defendant actually inflicts physical injury on another. For example, kicking someone in the chest and breaking the person’s ribs is battery.
The crime of assault can be committed by:
- performing an overt (physical) act intended to cause physical harm while having the present ability to inflict harm, or
- performing an overt act intended to place the victim in fear of bodily harm and actually placing the victim in reasonable fear of harm.
Examples of assault include running toward the victim while yelling that the victim was going to get killed, and approaching the victim while motioning with something that looked like a knife and that the victim reasonably believed was a knife.
(Va. Code Ann. §§ 18.2-52, 18.2-57.)
Under Virginia’s laws, if the defendant inflicts bodily injury on the victim based on the victim’s race, religion, color, or national origin, then the crime may be charged as a felony. (Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-57.)
Assaults Against Protected Employees
Assaults and assaults and batteries against certain employees may be felonies or misdemeanors if the defendant knows or has reason to know that victim is a protected employee. Protected employees include:
- law enforcement officers
- correctional officers and employees
- firefighters, including volunteer firefighters, and
- emergency medical personnel.
(Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-57.)
Battery against a family or household member may be a felony or a misdemeanor if the defendant has prior convictions for assault and battery, malicious wounding, or aggravated malicious wounding (in Virginia or elsewhere) against a family or household member. Family and household members include spouses, former spouses, parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, in-laws who live in the same house, people who have children together, and people who live together or have lived together in the past year.
(Va. Code Ann. §§ 16.1-228, 18.2-57.2.)
For more information, see Domestic Violence in Virginia.
Battery by Prisoners, Probationers, and Parolees
In Virginia it is a crime for a prisoner in a correctional or juvenile facility, a probationer, or a parolee to cause injury to a:
- correctional officer or employee
- person supervising or working with prisoners
- person visiting a correctional facility, or
- probation or parole officer.
In order for the crime to be committed against a parole or probation officer, the prisoner must know or have reason to know the victim is performing official duties.
(Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-55.)
Class 6 felonies may be punished as felonies or misdemeanors, by up to one year in jail, or one to five years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $2,500.
Hate crimes. If a hate crime results in bodily injury it is a Class 6 felony and the court must impose a sentence of at least six months (and the defendant must serve at least 30 days in jail).
Protected employees. Assaults against protected employees are Class 6 felonies, and the court must sentence the defendant to a minimum of six months in jail.
Domestic violence. If the defendant has prior convictions for assault and battery, malicious wounding, or aggravated malicious wounding against a family or household member (in Virginia or elsewhere), then the assault and battery is a Class 6 felony.
Battery by a prisoner is a Class 5 felony, punishable by one to ten years in prison, or up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
(Va. Code Ann. §§ 18.2-10, 18.2-52, 18.2-55, 18.2-57, 18.2-57.2, 18.2-57.3.)
Getting Legal Advice and Representation
Being charged with assault or assault and battery can result in time in prison or jail, as well as a fine and a criminal record. Or, most likely with the assistance of an attorney, you might be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced, or obtain a favorable plea bargain, verdict, or sentence. If you are charged with a crime, you should contact a Virginia criminal defense attorney. An attorney will be able to tell you how your case is likely to fare in court and make the best arguments on your behalf to help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case.