Differences Between Assault and Domestic Violence in Prince William County
Assault and domestic violence offenses are both taken quite seriously in the state of Virginia, due to the violent natures of those criminal offenses. If you want to know more about the differences between assault and domestic violence in Prince William County, speak with a knowledgeable domestic violence attorney that could work towards a positive outcome for you.
What is Assault?
Assault as defined by Prince William County law is the same as state assault law, unless the defendant is charged with an offense from a local city or county ordinance code. The law defines assault as a physical act both intended and capable of causing immediate bodily harm or unwanted contact to another, which places another in reasonable apprehension of immediate bodily harm or unwanted contact. One of the differences between assault and domestic violence in Prince William County is that domestic violence involves battery.
There are certain limitations on what localities can enact in their municipal codes. Most tend to mirror the Virginia state criminal code almost exactly. Assault is an old crime and its legal definition was established during English common law, long before the United States even existed. Virginia law incorporates English common law unless modified by a particular state statute.
Modifications to Assault Laws in Virginia
Virginia has not chosen to statutorily modify the common law definition of assault, which is a physical act both intended and capable of causing immediate bodily harm or unwanted contact to another, which places another in reasonable apprehension of immediate bodily harm or unwanted contact.
The law uses the term “apprehension” of harm or contact, because it is a broader form of expectation than just fear. Many assaults are minor in nature such that the alleged victims did not experience fear or a desire to physically defend themselves, but still legitimately anticipated some sort of non-consensual physical contact to occur by the accused.
Any degree of anticipated physical touching is enough, because the law treats harmful touching and unwanted touching as essentially the same thing. One of the differences between assault and domestic violence in Prince William County, is that assaults do not include the actual infliction of harm or contact, because that is the definition of battery. Assault is defined the same way whether the case is criminal or civil in nature.
Domestic Violence Defined
As defined by Prince William County law, domestic violence means that a domestic battery was inflicted as opposed to just an assault. However, many people use the terms family violence, domestic violence, and domestic assaults interchangeably. Battery requires a nonconsensual physical touching. Oftentimes, domestic violence cases involve notable injuries, like bruises, cuts, and fractures.
Being Charged with Domestic Violence and Assault
In some circumstances a person could be charged with both assault and domestic violence. An assault almost always precedes a battery, which is why the phrase “assault and battery” is so commonly used. But one could be charged with both, especially if multiple instances of physical contact were threatened or attempted, but only some of which connected with the alleged victim. Another way in which a person could be charged with both is if during the course of a single altercation, domestic and non-domestic alleged victims were allegedly assaulted by an accused as the term domestic is defined by Virginia law.
Differences Between Domestic Violence and Assault Cases
Domestic assault cases are different from assault cases in several ways. One of the big differences between assault and domestic violence in Prince William County is that domestic assault charges are litigated in the juvenile and domestic relations court, which is abbreviated as “JDR,” rather than the general district court where other misdemeanors are heard.
Juvenile and domestic relations court is a specialized district court that is much more private in nature and not open to the general public. The heightened concerns of prosecutors in domestic cases are that the defendant would have easier and subsequent access to the alleged victim to commit additional assaults, which is usually not a concern among people who are not family or household members.
Enhancement Schemes for Domestic Assault Offenses
The national statistics for domestic violence and domestic fatalities have also increased in recent years at much higher rates than non-domestic violence or fatalities. For this reason, the domestic assault statute provides for an enhancement scheme, which upgrades any third or subsequent misdemeanor charge into a Class 6 felony, unlike normal assault charges. The Virginia code also prohibits judges from dismissing domestic assault charges when the alleged victim acknowledges in writing that they have received adequate redress from the accused.
Prosecutors also understand that many alleged victims in domestic assault cases become problematic in terms of providing desired testimony against the accused due to a familial or intimate emotional relationship. This often translates into prosecutors dropping domestic assault charges outright or making better plea offers than a normal assault cases. If an individual wants to know more about differences between assault and domestic violence in Prince William County, they should speak with an intelligent domestic violence attorney that could answer their questions.