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What’s the Difference Between Simple Assault and Aggravated Assault?

Are you facing assault charges in Virginia? If so, the distinction between “simple assault” and “aggravated assault” is more than just a matter of terminology. It could affect the severity of any penalties you might face and how your lawyer strategizes your legal defense.

Although many jurisdictions have separate legal definitions for these two offenses, Virginia has its own specific ways of categorizing and penalizing assaultive behavior. Here’s what you need to know. 

What Is Aggravated Assault in Virginia?

Virginia law does not specifically categorize assault as “aggravated assault” like some other jurisdictions do. Instead, Virginia uses the terms “simple assault” and “assault and battery.”

Virginia law defines simple assault as an intentional act that puts another person in reasonable fear of harmful or offensive contact. Assault, therefore, can occur even without actual physical contact. The mere threat of harm is sufficient for an assault offense.

“Assault and battery,” on the other hand, involves not just a threat but also actual physical contact that causes harm. In this context, “battery” is the crime of physically harming someone else. An assault and battery offense is closer to what people commonly think of as “aggravated assault” in other jurisdictions. Assault and battery involves threatening and then intentionally causing physical harm to another person.

Virginia law provides for various degrees of assault and assault and battery, including specific statutes that enhance penalties if the assault occurs under certain circumstances. For instance, an offender could receive harsher penalties for assault against a law enforcement officer or assault as a hate crime. 

Penalties for Assault Charges in Virginia

The penalties for an assault conviction can vary based on factors like whether the victim belongs to a protected class and whether the defendant has prior convictions. Common assault penalties in Virginia include the following:

  • Misdemeanor Penalties: Simple assault and assault and battery are Class 1 misdemeanors in Virginia. Penalties can include up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
  • Felony Penalties: In some cases, what might ordinarily be a misdemeanor assault can be elevated to a felony, particularly if a weapon is used or if the assault results in severe injury. Felonies carry more severe penalties, including extended periods of imprisonment.
  • Assault on Specific Individuals: Assaulting certain individuals, such as law enforcement officers, teachers, or healthcare providers, can result in enhanced penalties like mandatory minimums.
  • Hate Crime Enhancements: If a court finds the assault was motivated by race, religion, or other protected characteristics, additional penalties could apply.
  • Probation: Even if jail time is not mandated, a defendant may be placed on probation, requiring them to meet conditions like attending anger management courses or abstaining from alcohol.
  • Restitution: The court might order a defendant to pay restitution to the victim, covering costs like medical bills or property damage related to the assault.
  • Criminal Record: A conviction will likely result in a criminal record, which can have long-lasting implications, including difficulties in finding employment or housing. 

How an Assault Defense Lawyer Can Help

Assault charges can have serious consequences, ranging from jail time and fines to long-term implications for your personal and professional life. A qualified defense attorney can employ various strategies to defend against these charges.

Here are some ways your defense lawyer can help:

  • Analyzing your situation and identifying weaknesses in the prosecution’s case
  • Conducting a thorough investigation and collecting evidence to support your defense
  • Engaging in pre-trial negotiations to possibly reduce or dismiss charges
  • Representing you at trial by cross-examining witnesses and presenting evidence
  • Employing specific legal defenses, such as self-defense or lack of intent, to protect your rights
  • Advocating for a more lenient sentence by presenting mitigating circumstances or alternatives
  • Guiding you through post-conviction processes like appeals or expungement 

Contact the Defense Team at Shannon & Associates Now

Need legal help in the face of an assault charge in Virginia? Look no further than Shannon & Associates. Contact our experienced defense team now at (757) 228-5529 to discuss your case in a confidential consultation session.

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