In Virginia, the crime of malicious wounding is committed by intentionally causing injury to another person with the intent to kill or very seriously injure the victim. Unlawful wounding and strangulation are less serious crimes.
For information on other related crimes, such as assault (physically threatening to hurt someone) and battery (causing injury) see Virginia Assault and Battery Laws and Virginia Felony Assault and Battery Laws.
Under Virginia’s laws, the crime of malicious wounding is committed by:
- causing injury to the victim
- with the intent to kill, disfigure, maim, or disable.
Malice. People act maliciously if they intentionally or purposely commit a wrongful act. Usually, both malice and intent to kill can be inferred based on the circumstances of the offense.
For example, beating someone up because the person touched your car would probably be considered acting maliciously. If the victim suffered very serious injuries, such as multiple broken bones, then a court or jury would probably find the intent to kill or maim.
(Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-51.)
Malicious and unlawful wounding are punished more severely when committed against certain protected employees who are engaged in the performance of public duties and who the defendant knows or has reason to know are protected employees. Protected employees include:
- law enforcement officers
- search and rescue personnel, and
- emergency medical services personnel.
(Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-51.1.)
Acid, fire, or explosion
In Virginia, maliciously or unlawfully causing injury by means of acid, fire, or explosion; or by biological or radioactive weapon, may also be punished more severely. (Va. Code Ann. §§ 18.2-52, 18.2-52.1.)
If a defendant causes injury without acting maliciously and without the intent to kill, then the defendant commits the crime of unlawful wounding. In Virginia, unlawful wounding can be a felony or a misdemeanor. For example, if the defendant threw a beer bottle into a group of people and accidentally hit someone in the head, that might be considered unlawful wounding. The defendant did not act with malice because the injury was not intentional.
(Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-51.)
Causing Injury in the Commission of a Felony
Unlawfully wounding another person in the commission of a felony is also a crime in Virginia, and may be a felony or a misdemeanor. (Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-53.)
Aggravated Malicious Wounding
The crime of aggravated malicious wounding is committed when the victim suffers permanent and significant impairment or the termination of a pregnancy.
For example, cutting someone in the face with a razor and causing permanent scarring would likely be considered aggravated malicious wounding.
(Va. Code Ann. §§ 18.2-51, 18.2-51.2.)
It is also a crime in Virginia to cause injury by strangulation (cutting off the victim’s breathing or blood flow by applying pressure to the neck). (Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-51.6.)
Use of a Firearm
Using, attempting to use, or displaying in a threatening manner a firearm while committing or attempting to commit malicious wounding is a separate felony and subsequent violations are punished more severely. (Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-53.1)
Aggravated malicious wounding is a Class 2 felony, punishable by 20 years to life in prison and fine of up to $100,000.
Malicious wounding is a Class 3 felony, punishable by five to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $100,000.
Malicious wounding against a protected employee is punishable by five to 30 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $100,000. The defendant must serve at least two years in prison.
Maliciously causing injury by acid, fire, or explosion, or by biological or radioactive weapons is punishable by five to 30 years’ imprisonment.
Using a firearm while committing or attempting to commit malicious wounding is punishable by three years in prison for the first offense and five years for second and subsequent offenses.
Other crimes. Unlawful wounding, unlawful wounding by acid, fire, or explosion, strangulation, and wounding in the commission of a felony are all Class 6 felonies, and 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. Unlawful wounding against a protected employee is a Class 6 felony, and the defendant must serve one year in prison.
(Va. Code Ann. §§ 18.2-10, 18.2-51, 18.2-51.1, 18.2-51.2, 18.2-51.6, 18.2-53, 18.2-53.1.)
Getting Legal Advice and Representation
A conviction for malicious wounding can result in a lengthy prison sentence, as well as a huge fine, and a serious criminal record. If you are charged with malicious wounding, you should contact a criminal defense attorney in Virginia immediately. A criminal defense attorney will be able to tell you what to expect in court, conduct an investigation, and prepare your case so that you have the best chance of achieving a good outcome. With an attorney’s help, you may be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced, or obtain a not guilty verdict or a lighter sentence than the maximum allowed by law.