In the civil context, assault and battery are intentional torts. In criminal law, "assault and battery" is often used to refer to only one crime. However, Virginia treats assault and battery as two distinct crimes even though the offenses are penalized under the same statute.
A simple assault (the most basic assault charge in Virginia) occurs when a person tries to commit a battery or attempts to place someone in fear of immediate injury by menacing them. Unlike a battery, assault doesn't require any actual physical contact with another person. A battery is the unauthorized offensive or harmful contact with another person. The most basic battery charge in Virginia is under the broader category of "assault and battery."
Aggravated Malicious Wounding
Virginia criminalizes more severe forms of battery, charging them as class 2 felonies, if the individual maliciously:
- Shoots/stabs/cuts or wounds another, or
- otherwise causes bodily injury,
- With the intent to disfigure, disable, or kill, and
- Victim is severely injured and suffers permanent/significant physical impairment.
Virginia Assault and Battery Laws at a Glance
Although it's essential to understand every detail of a statute to fully comprehend the law, it's also useful to refer to a plain language breakdown of the language as a general introduction. See the chart below for a summary of Virginia's assault and battery laws, including links to important code sections.
Simple Assault: Punishable by up to 1-year incarceration and/or up to $2,500 in fines.
Assault and Battery: Punishable by up to 1-year incarceration and/or up to $2,500 in fines.
Aggravated Malicious Wounding: Punishable by a prison term of 20 years- life.
There are enhanced penalties for certain victim types including family or household members, health care providers, among others.
- If the victim is selected based on that person's race, religion, color, or national origin, then the actor faces a minimum sentence of 6 months in jail with a 30-day mandatory minimum term.
- If the battery results in bodily injury to the victim, then it's a Class 6 felony, punishable by 1-5 years in prison unless the court calls for less.
If the actor commits an offense against another knowing or having reason to know that the victim is in a certain class and the victim is performing official duties when the actor commits the offense, then it's a Class 6 felony, punishable by 1-5 years in prison with a 6- month mandatory sentence. The victims include the following:
- Law enforcement officers,
- Correctional officers, and
- Firefighters/EMT personnel.
If the actor commits an offense against a person who they know or should know is a teacher, guidance counselor, or principal and the victim is performing official duties, then the offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or $2500 in fines; there's a minimum sentence of 15 days in jail.
- Defense of self /others
- Accidental contact
- Lack of malice (malicious wounding)
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Virginia Assault and Battery Laws: Related Resources
Discuss Assault and Battery Charges with a Virginia Attorney
Virginia's assault and battery laws can be complex and convoluted. If you're facing these charges, you'll want help with understanding the charges against you and defending strongly against the charges. Talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.