Criminal Defense Attorney Explains Domestic Violence Charges in Virginia
In Virginia, domestic assault is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. However, the penalties can be much harsher if certain aggravating factors are present, such as the use of a weapon or causing serious bodily harm. If you or someone you know has been charged with domestic assault in Fairfax, it's important to seek the advice of a skilled Fairfax domestic lawyer who can provide guidance and representation throughout the legal process.
One of the most important things to understand about domestic assault in Virginia is that it can occur between people who are in a variety of relationships, not just those who are married or living together. Virginia law defines a "family or household member" under Va. Code § 16.1-228:
- A person's spouse, whether or not he or she resides in the same home with the person
- A person's former spouse, whether or not he or she resides in the same home with the person
- A person's parents, stepparents, children, stepchildren, brothers, sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters, grandparents and grandchildren, regardless of whether such persons reside in the same home with the person
- A person's mother-in-law, father-in-law, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law who reside in the same home with the person
- Any individual who has a child in common with the person, whether or not the person and that individual have been married or have resided together at any time
- Any individual who cohabits or who, within the previous 12 months, cohabited with the person, and any children of either of them then residing in the same home with the person
This means that domestic assault charges can be brought against a wide range of individuals, including parents, siblings, grandparents, and romantic partners.
To be convicted of domestic assault in Virginia, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed an intentional, unlawful act of violence or force against a family or household member. This can include a wide range of behaviors, from physical violence like hitting or kicking. A threat can also be an assault if the threat is made followed by an over physical act. In some cases, the victim may have visible injuries like bruises or cuts, but this is not always necessary to prove domestic assault.
Va Code § 18.2-57.2 makes assault and battery of a household or family member a class 1 misdemeanor. The statute also makes it a felony if the person is convicted two previous times. In other words, the third conviction for domestic violence is a felony in Virginia.
According to the Virginia Model Jury Instructions, the Commonwealth must prove:
- The defendant willfully touched a person without legal excuse or justification; and
- The touching was done in an angry, rude, insulting, or vengeful manner.
One of the challenges of domestic assault cases is that they often involve complex emotional dynamics and conflicting stories from the alleged victim and the accused. For this reason, it's essential to have a skilled Fairfax domestic lawyer on your side who can investigate the facts of the case and provide a strong defense. Your lawyer may seek to discredit the alleged victim's testimony or show that the accused was acting in self-defense or under extreme provocation.
If you are charged with domestic assault in Virginia, there are several potential consequences that you may face. In addition to jail time and fines, you may also be subject to a protective order, which prohibits you from contacting the alleged victim and may limit your access to your home, children, or other important resources. You may also face other collateral consequences, such as difficulty finding employment or housing with a criminal record.
One important thing to note about Virginia's domestic assault laws is that they allow for first-time offenders to receive a deferred disposition (under Va. Code § 18.2-57.3), which means that if they successfully complete a period of probation and any other court-ordered requirements, their charges will be dismissed. This can be a helpful option for those who are charged with domestic assault for the first time and who want to avoid a criminal record and the other negative consequences that come with a conviction.
If you are facing domestic assault charges in Fairfax, it's essential to seek the help of a qualified and experienced domestic lawyer who can guide you through the legal process and help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Your lawyer will work with you to investigate the facts of the case, build a strong defense, and negotiate with the prosecution to achieve the best possible plea deal or trial outcome.
In addition to providing legal representation, your Fairfax domestic lawyer can also help you understand your legal rights and obligations. For example, if you are subject to a protective order, your lawyer can explain what it means and help you navigate the often confusing and emotionally charged process of complying with its terms. They can also help you understand your options for seeking counseling or other support services, which may be helpful in avoiding future incidents of domestic violence.