Assault Cases — Misdemeanor or Felony?
Assault cases in Virginia are misdemeanors — unless there are aggravating factors. The maximum punishment for a Class 1 misdemeanor is one year in jail and a fine of $2,500. Judges can also impose “no contact” conditions on one convicted of this crime to ensure that he stays away from the victim. Learn more about Assault vs. Battery.
Here are some aggravating factors that could elevate a misdemeanor assault case to a felony, however. A criminal defense attorney, Fairfax VA will be able to give advice as to the strength of these aggravating factors.
- A person is badly hurt. If one assaults another and the victim is killed, maimed, or seriously injured, the crime of Assault & Battery can be elevated to Murder, Aggravated Malicious Wounding, Malicious Wounding, or Unlawful Wounding. Each are very serious crimes. At its worst — Capital Murder — the maximum punishment is death.
- A victim is selected because of who he is. If one assaults another because the victim is part of a protected class, an otherwise misdemeanor assault will be elevated to a felony. In Virginia, there is a long list of protected classes and the list keeps growing every year. Some protected classes are victims chosen because of their race or religion. Other classes are police officers, judges, prosecutors, firefighters, and teachers. There are many more. A criminal defense attorney, Fairfax, Va will research the law to determine if an upgrade is appropriate under the facts. For example, if one assaults a prosecutor not knowing that the victim is a prosecutor, the case cannot be upgraded.
This means that the same act – hitting another – could be a felony or misdemeanor based on unintended outcomes, such as the degree of injury or the identity of the victim. However, the defenses for most assaults boil down to proof that the accused touched, in the slighted way, a victim in an angry, rude, insulting, or vengeful manner. The most common defense is “self-defense.” A good criminal defense attorney, Fairfax, Va can advise one on the applicability of this defense because it is not always intuitive.
In a nutshell, a person can use reasonable and proportional force to repel an attack. So, if one begins pushing another, the victim can push back without himself engaging in an assault. After all, he is defending himself. However, the self-defense must be proportional. A victim who is pushed is not given a license to shoot the pusher, for example. Also, the rules on self-defense differ depending on whether the one defending himself had any fault in starting the difficulty or not. If one is partially at fault, he must retreat before getting permission to exercise self-defense.
A criminal defense attorney, Fairfax, VA is a good resource to investigate a case, determine if it should be a misdemeanor or a felony, and advise on good defenses, including the most common defense of self-defense.