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VIRGINIA ASSAULT AND BATTERY
Virginia Code §18.2-57 codifies the offense of simple assault and battery as a class 1 misdemeanor; however, this code section relies upon what is called the common law to define the elements of the offense. Common law is judge made law which has been around for centuries which we inherited in this country from our original ties with England. The common law definition of an assault and battery is an intentional harmful or offensive contact. To get even more specific, an assault under common law is separate from a battery. An assault is the apprehension of a harmful or offensive contact. Thus, even if you did not actually make contact with the individual, if you intended to make contact, you could be found guilty of assault. A battery is the actual harmful or offensive contact. Virginia Code §18.2-57 adds additional criteria to the definition of simple assault and battery which enhances the penalty by creating mandatory jail time for certain behavior. For instance if the accused “. . . intentionally selects the person against whom a simple assault is committed because of his race, religious conviction, color or national origin, the penalty upon conviction shall include a term of confinement of at least six months, 30 days of which shall be a mandatory minimum term of confinement.” Other proscribed behavior which will result in enhanced punishment includes the knowing assault and battery of a law enforcement officer, corrections officer, firefighter or other emergency personnel while engaged in the performance of their public duties. The punishment for this offense is a Class 6 felony and a mandatory minimum term of confinement of six months. The code also provides enhanced punishment for a battery “. . . against another knowing or having reason to know that such other person is a full-time or part-time teacher, principal, assistant principal, or guidance counselor of any public or private elementary or secondary school and is engaged in the performance of his duties as such, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor and the sentence of such person upon conviction shall include a sentence of 15 days in jail, two days of which shall be a mandatory minimum term of confinement.”
SO WHAT’S MY DEFENSE:
There are several ways to approach the defense to an assault and battery depending upon the individual facts of each case. For instance, an assault and battery requires an intentional act. If you did not intend to make contact with the other person, then it is not an assault and battery. For example, if you are standing while on the bus and the bus stops abruptly sending you forward into another person, this would not be an assault and battery because you did not intend to make contact with that person. Factors outside of your control created the contact. Another common defense to an assault and battery is self-defense. If you are not the aggressor, the law allows you to defend yourself from the aggressive acts of another. However, your response must be commensurate with the aggression you are facing. In other words, if someone is about to hit you with their fist, you have the right to defend yourself in a like manner but not to pull out a gun and shoot that person.
SHOULD I EAT A LITTLE CROW:
Virginia Code §19.2-151 allows for the dismissal of an assault and battery warrant upon meeting certain conditions. This is called an accord and satisfaction. The requirement typically involves the injured party appearing in court and acknowledging in writing that he has received satisfaction, usually in the form of monetary compensation, for any injury he sustained. If the judge is satisfied with the agreement between the accused and the victim, then the judge has discretion to enter an order superseding any commitment, discharging any recognizance or dismissing the prosecution altogether. This provision does not apply to assaults against law enforcement officers or against household members.