West Virginia Assault and Battery Laws

The basics of West Virginia's laws and penalties for simple assault and battery crimes.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated April 18, 2024

Assault and battery charges in West Virginia can result in misdemeanor or felony penalties. Learn how West Virginia distinguishes these two offenses.

What Is Considered Assault in West Virginia?

A person commits assault in West Virginia by attempting to cause violent injury to another person or causing another person—by threats, words, or actions—to fear impending violence.

A person who takes a swing at someone and misses has committed assault. Raising a fist and threatening to pummel the person is another example of assault. When physical contact results, the crime becomes battery (discussed below).

(W.Va. Code § 61-2-9 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Assault in West Virginia?

A person convicted of assault faces misdemeanor penalties of up to six months of jail time and a $100 fine. Committing an assault against certain protected classes of individuals, however, can result in minimum jail sentences and higher fines.

Protected employees. A defendant will spend a minimum of 24 hours in jail for assaulting any of the following protected employees while they are engaged in their official duties: government representatives, health care workers, emergency services personnel, law enforcement officials, correctional employees, and utility and public transit workers. The fine for this offense bumps up to $200.

School employees; retaliation. Assaulting a school employee in retaliation for action taken toward a student results in a minimum of five days in jail and a minimum $50 fine.

Athletic officials. Assaulting an athletic official increases the maximum fine amount to $500.

Elderly individuals. Committing an assault against a person who's 65 or older makes the defendant ineligible for probation or a suspended sentence, meaning (in most cases) the judge must send the defendant to jail.

Domestic assault. If the defendant assaults a family or household member, the crime becomes domestic assault. Learn more about these penalties in our article on West Virginia Domestic Violence Laws.

(W.Va. Code §§ 61-2-9, 61-2-10a, 61-2-10b, 61-2-15, 61-2-15a, 61-2-16a (2024).)

What Is Considered Battery in West Virginia?

A person commits battery in West Virginia by intentionally causing physical harm to another or by making offensive contact with another.

Examples of battery can include punching, slapping, kicking, hair pulling, or shoving someone. Battery can also include offensive contact, such as grabbing or poking someone in an insulting or provoking manner. Physical harm can include pain, bruises, cuts, or swelling.

If the defendant acts with the intent of maiming, disfiguring, or killing the victim, the crime becomes a malicious or unlawful assault (discussed in a separate article). These types of felony-level assault generally involve inflicting bodily injuries with a weapon or escalating acts of violence.

(W.Va. Code § 61-2-9 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Battery in West Virginia?

A person convicted of battery faces misdemeanor penalties of up to 12 months of jail time and a $500 fine. Committing battery against certain protected classes of individuals, however, can result in minimum jail sentences, higher fines, and sometimes felony penalties.

Protected employees. A defendant faces a minimum one-month jail sentence for committing battery against any of the following protected employees while they are engaged in their official duties: government representatives, health care workers, emergency services personnel, law enforcement officials, correctional employees, and utility and public transit workers. A second conviction increases the offense to a felony, punishable by one to three years in prison and a $1,000 fine. For a third conviction, a defendant faces two to five years of prison time and a $2,000 fine.

School employees; retaliation. Battery against a school employee in retaliation for action taken toward a student results in a minimum of 10 days in jail and a minimum $100 fine.

Athletic official. Committing battery against an athletic official increases the maximum fine amount to $1,000.

Elderly individuals. Committing battery against a person who's 65 or older makes the defendant ineligible for probation or a suspended sentence, meaning the judge must send the defendant to jail or prison.

Domestic battery. If the defendant harms a family or household member, the crime becomes domestic battery. Learn more about these penalties in our article on West Virginia Domestic Violence Laws.

(W.Va. Code §§ 61-2-9, 61-2-10a, 61-2-10b, 61-2-15, 61-2-15a, 61-2-16a (2024).)

Defenses to Assault or Battery Charges in West Virginia

Common defenses to assault and battery charges include self-defense and challenging the prosecution's case.

Self-defense. A defendant may raise a self-defense claim if the alleged victim was the original aggressor. To use this defense, a defendant can only use as much force as is reasonably necessary to stop the attack. Using deadly force against someone who slapped you, for example, is not reasonable.

Reasonable doubt. The government prosecutor must prove every element of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. A defense attorney might argue that the prosecution didn't meet this burden in showing the requisite intent, harm, or the victim's protected status. Placing doubt in the minds of the jurors can result in an acquittal or reduced charges.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you're facing assault or battery charges in West Virginia, talk to a criminal defense attorney. A lawyer can help you understand the criminal system, defend your case, and protect your rights.

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