Being charged with any type of violent crime is a stressful situation that could have a significant impact on your freedom and livelihood. Both the law and society more broadly severely punish anyone found guilty of domestic violence, and the penalties in these cases often outweigh what you might receive for other violent crimes, such as assault.
For this reason, it’s imperative that you get help from a Virginia criminal defense attorney right away if you’ve been accused of assault or domestic violence. Fairfax violent crime defense lawyer Christie Leary of Leary Law has more than 20 years of experience handling criminal cases in the Northern Virginia area. The team at Leary Law knows the stakes, and we’re committed to seeing you through these challenging circumstances. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.
What is the difference between assault and domestic violence charges
Under Virginia law, assault can be broadly defined as any unwanted physical contact or even just the imminent fear of unwanted physical contact. Not all cases of assault qualify as domestic violence, as anyone can be charged with assault if they attack or threaten to harm another person.
What turns a normal assault or battery case into an incident of domestic violence is if the victim is a member of the perpetrator’s family or household. For instance, a spouse attacking another spouse would qualify as assault, as would a parent attacking a child, or vice-versa. An attack on a sibling, grandparent, or another family member would also likely be considered domestic violence.
Furthermore, if the victim is related to the perpetrator by marriage, an assault could be considered an act of domestic violence. Similarly, someone could be charged with domestic violence for attacking another person who lives with them but is unrelated to them, such as a roommate.
The reason domestic violence is a distinct offense from assault, and why the penalties for domestic violence are often harsher, is because it can be much harder to get away from an attacker if you live with them or have a close relationship with them. This means the authorities have a strong incentive to inflict serious penalties on those who commit domestic violence.
Penalties for assault and domestic violence charges
Section 18.2-57 of the Code of Virginia states that any conviction for assault is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines. Additional infractions could result in additional jail time and heavier fines.
The penalties for domestic violence are laid out in Section 18.2-57.2 of the Code of Virginia, which states that a baseline conviction is a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, there are certain circumstances that could lead to a Class 6 felony conviction for an act of domestic violence, including:
- Two prior convictions for domestic battery
- Malicious or unlawful wounding
- Aggravated malicious wounding
- Malicious bodily wounding through use of a caustic substance
- Domestic violence by means of strangulation
- Any other convictions for a crime similar to the ones listed above
Class 6 felonies carry much steeper penalties in Virginia, including up to five years in prison. Additionally, any conviction for domestic violence will result in an emergency protective order being filed against you, which could block you from seeing your family again.
How a lawyer could help
Whether you’ve been accused of domestic violence or assault, the Virginia criminal defense team at Leary Law can help. We’ll be there to provide honest and knowledgeable counsel and to defend you to the very best of our ability. Contact Leary Law today for a confidential consultation.