When people use the term “assault and battery,” they often treat the words as if they were interchangeable — but they’re not.
Assault is the act of making threats of bodily harm in such a way that the victim truly fears for their safety. A battery involves actually making physical contact with the victim in some way. That can include true violence, which can leave the other party wounded, or it can be as simple as some kind of purposefully offensive touching.
How does Virginia law treat assault and battery charges?
These can be some of the most complicated charges for defendants to understand. Virginia law groups both offenses under the same statute, but there are many factors that go into how the charges are weighted. The more serious the offense, of course, the bigger the potential for jail time.
For example, a simple assault charge with no aggravating factors is treated as a Class 1 misdemeanor that’s punishable by — at most — a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. However, if the court decides that your actions were motivated by the other person’s race, religion, gender, gender identity, sexuality, disability, skin color or national origin, that moves the offense to a Class 6 felony. If convicted, you could face up to five years in prison.
Even the occupation of your victim can have an impact on your case. For example, if you knowingly assault a health care worker, educator, police officer or certain other individuals, that can also escalate the situation.
What should you do after being charged?
If you’ve been charged with assault or assault and battery, don’t try to talk yourself out of the situation. Anything you say is just likely to add to the prosecution’s narrative in court. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.