A first-time domestic assault conviction in Virginia is a misdemeanor. However, you should still take a domestic assault charge seriously.
A conviction for domestic assault can affect almost all areas of your life. In addition to facing criminal penalties such as fines, jail time and having your firearms taken away, the conviction can affect your employment, immigration status or family court proceedings.
The crime of domestic assault
Virginia law defines domestic assault as an assault or battery against a household member. A household member can be a spouse, former spouse, family member related by blood or affinity, such as an in-law, or someone with whom you share a child. It can also be someone you have lived with in the past 12 months.
A domestic assault conviction could cause you to lose your job, depending on the type of employment and is likely to hinder you when you are looking for new employment.
If you are involved in immigration or family court proceedings, you should expect the domestic assault conviction to be closely examined. It can seriously harm your chances in custody court in particular, since a court will now be associating you with physical violence.
You can still be convicted if the victim wants to dismiss the charge
Another main reason you should take a domestic assault charge seriously is that the case can still proceed against you, even if the alleged victim wants to drop the charges.
Once the charges are filed, it is up to the prosecutor to decide whether to proceed with them or not.
A domestic assault charge requires the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed assault and battery against the alleged victim. Assault is threatening to commit a battery, while battery is a harmful or offensive touching done in a threatening manner.
Protecting your rights
There are defenses available to a domestic assault charge. You could have been acting in self-defense or not have intended to commit the battery. Sometimes, the incident that led to the charge is a complete lie.
With the potential consequences so high, it is important that you talk to a criminal defense attorney as soon as you can after you are charged. An attorney can examine the facts and see what defenses are available to you.