Those accused of committing an act of physical violence in Virginia may find the state rules concerning such charges confusing.
For example, the law references both assault and battery and imposes the same basic penalties for simple assault and an assault and battery charges. However, the two are actually separate offenses with completely different meanings even though they often occur in the same situation. Those who allegedly violated state statutes may benefit from understanding the difference between assault and battery under Virginia law.
Assault involves making a threat
An assault is an attempt to threaten or intimidate another person. Assaults are often verbal, meaning that someone directly informs another party that they intend to cause them harm. Some people even use written communication to threaten someone else. Sometimes, assault charges can even stem from someone’s body language and an attempt at physical intimidation. Rushing at someone or pulling a fist back to imply that someone intends to punch another person could constitute assault and lead to someone’s prosecution under Virginia state law. Assault charges require both intimidation and the ability to engage in battery.
Battery involves unlawful contact
Someone who grabs another person by the shirt, kicks them in the shin or strikes them has committed an act of battery. Physical contact without the consent of the other party could be battery, although accidental touching should not lead to battery charges. In theory, the penalties for assault and battery charges are the same. The penalty for an offense charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor could include up to a year in jail, $2,500 in fines and an order to pay restitution to the victim.
There are certain aggravating factors, such as targeting someone because of protected characteristics such as their religion, race or disability, that could exacerbate the charges and lead to more serious minimum penalties. Those that specifically target state employees, such as judges or law enforcement officers, will face felony charges.
Factors including the behavior of the other party involved can influence someone’s options for defending against such charges. Learning more about the laws prohibiting interpersonal violence in Virginia may benefit those accused of an assault or battery offense.