Assault and Battery: Not the Same Thing
As a layperson, the two words sound redundant: assault and battery. Aren’t those two different terms for the same thing? After all, both words seem to mean that a fight occurred and harm was inflicted. Why not just call it assault? Or battery?
The answer is because they are not the same..
What Is Assault?
Assault is simply the threat of violence. One way to say it is that it’s an attempt or threat to injure another person. Another way to say it makes it even clearer: Assault is possible even if you have never touched someone.
What Is Battery?
Battery is the term for actually coming into contact with another person in a way that harms him or her. It is the actual physical violence that is carried out; a willful or unlawful touching of another.
When you put those two terms together, it makes a little more sense why one formal definition of the two terms together is “the crime of threatening a person (assault) together with the act of making physical contact with him (battery)”.
Penalties for Assault and Battery:
In Virginia, an assault and battery is a Class 1 Misdemeanor, an offense that can carry a jail sentence of up to 12 months. If the assault and battery is directed towards someone because of his or her race, religion, or ethnicity (sometimes classified as a hate crime), then it could escalate to a Class 6 felony, depending on the victim's injury, which requires a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail.
The mandatory minimum jail sentence increases if the person attacked is a police officer, judge, or other specific kind of public servant (see subsection C). Those charges come with a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 6 months. There are also mandatory jail sentences written into the law for when school employees and health care providers are assaulted.
As you have read, there is an important distinction between a threat of harm and actual harm. The type of person who has been victimized also matters. It is important to know your legal options if you are faced with a charge of assault and battery.
Domestic Assault and Battery:
Domestic assault and battery can be difficult because the persons involved usually have a prior relationship with one another. In the state of Virginia, however, the legal ramifications can be lighter than they would be for other forms of assault and battery, as described above. “Persons charged with first offense of assault and battery against a family or household member may be placed on local community-based probation; conditions; education and treatment programs; costs and fees; violations; discharge.” Five conditions must exist for this type of deferred disposition to take place:
- The Defendant must be an adult;
- This must be a first offense;
- The Defendant cannot have utilized the deferred disposition in a prior case;
- The Court must find that the evidence is sufficient to find the Defendant guilty of the offense; and
- The Defendant must consent to the deferral of the charge.
The positive to this result is that the Court will defer the charges “without a finding of guilt” and place the person charged on probation, to be dismissed after 2 years.
How to Defend Assault and Battery:
It is not hard for someone to allege that an assault and battery took place. Sadly, many people swear out criminal warrants against people who have done nothing wrong. Thankfully, there are ways for a good lawyer will defend these charges in court. Was there intent to harm the other person? Intent matters. Were you acting in self-defense? You have the right to defend yourself. Are there reasons for the "victim" to lie or fabricate? A good cross-examination can shed light on the underlying motivations of the complainant.
Are you facing a charge of assault and battery? Call or e-mail today for a free consultation!
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