Domestic Assault/Domestic Violence in Virginia
What is Considered Domestic Assault Under Virginia Law?
According to VA Law 18.2-57.2, the charge for domestic assault is called assault and battery against a family or household member. You can be charged with domestic assault for hurting, injuring, or pushing a family member. This can occur in the form of pushing, hitting, punching, slapping, beating, striking, spanking, smacking, throwing, etc. This offense is a class 1 misdemeanor crime punishable by up to 1 year in jail.
The term “family member” covers spouses, former spouses, parents, step-parents, children, step-children, siblings, half-siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren. This also applies to in-laws, any individual who has a child in common with the person, and any individual who cohabits or cohabited with the person within the previous 12 months.
A threat to commit assault can be charged as an assault crime if the victim is put in reasonable fear of imminent harm, meaning that the assailant would conceivably have the immediate capacity to carry out the threat in question.
What if the Victim Wants to Drop the Charges?
Unfortunately, the victim cannot drop the charges simply because they have changed their mind. It is not the victim who brought the charges, but the Commonwealth of Virginia, therefore the prosecutor controls the case. The victim is just a witness in the prosecutor’s case against the assailant.
The best way to go about trying to drop charges is for the victim to consult with an independent attorney that will act in the victim’s best interest, rather than the prosecution or defense attorneys who will have conflicting interests with the victim.
Jurisdiction of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations (JDR) Court
If a case of domestic assault involves children who have been subjected to abuse; family or household members who have been subjected to or accused of abuse; adults accused of child abuse or neglect, or of offenses against a family or household member, the case will be heard in a JDR court.
JDR courts are district courts, meaning that they are not courts of record and there are no jury trials. All of the cases are heard and decided by a judge. The decisions made in JDR court can be appeals to the circuit court, which is a court of record and would involve a jury trial.
The Deferred Disposition Statute
A deferred disposition happens when the court defers proceedings against certain persons charged with simple assault and domestic violence without finding them guilty. The party is placed on probation, then the charge is later dismissed and discharged. This only applies to first-time offenders, and the prosecution has the right to object to such action.
Potential Defenses for Domestic Assault
There are two big ways to build a defense in a domestic assault case. The first would be challenging the prosecution’s evidence. The second would be to look at any potential ways that the police violated individual rights, if applicable. It is also common to utilize self-defense and/or defense of others.
How We Can Help
The Pickett Law Group, PLLC is an experienced law firm with two generations of former prosecutors, who have fought from both sides of the courtroom on all types of legal issues, including Domestic Assault. Our attorneys can help ensure that you have the best defense possible in your case. Contact us today and we will begin fighting on your behalf.