In Virginia, a physical fight or even an argument with a reasonable threat of violence can result in charges of assault or assault and battery. If the fight or argument is against a family member, someone you live with, or someone with whom you have a child, the charge would be domestic assault.
Regardless of whether it's a simple assault or a domestic assault, a misdemeanor assault charge is a class 1 misdemeanor that carries the risk of up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Felonies have a potential risk for even more severe penalties. In some cases, these charges can harm a security clearance for work or an immigrant's legal status in the United States.
You need a lawyer on your side who will work to protect your interests in court and in your life outside of the courtroom. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your assault case or any other crime of violence with Jennifer Raimo, call her office at (703) 591-4868.
Can my assault charge be settled out of court?
Sort of, but only if it is a misdemeanor and not if the charge is domestic assault. In Virginia, it is possible to have a misdemeanor assault and battery charge dismissed for something called an accord and satisfaction. What that means is that you and the person who you are accused of assaulting sign off on a contract in which you agree to reimburse the other person for any financial losses such as medical bills that resulted from the incident. Once payment is received, the other person would sign a document acknowledging the contract and payment.
The next step would be for you to go to court with both documents in hand and pay the court costs for that case, which is usually about $100. If all that is done, the judge has the discretion to dismiss the case.
Even if you do these things, you will still be required to go to court on your trial date. Likewise, the complaining witness is not allowed to ignore a witness subpoena if he or she receives one. Judges are not required to dismiss, but are encouraged to do so when there is a proper accord and satisfaction. In fact, they usually don't ask any questions except to verify the complaining witness agrees to the dismissal and the court costs have been paid.
If a case is dismissed for accord and satisfaction, there is no admission of guilt in the court's record. That's important because that means you can have the charge expunged if you don't have any other criminal record and USCIS cannot hold the charge against you if you are an immigrant.
I don't recommend you try to negotiate an accord and satisfaction on your own. Anything you say can be used against you in court and that's likely to happen if the complaining witness is not willing to agree to have the case dismissed like this. It's better to have a lawyer negotiate on your behalf, preferably in your absence, to protect your interests instead of putting you at greater risk of conviction.
If you have any questions about settling an assault or other misdemeanor without a conviction, call (703) 591-4868 to schedule a free consultation or email me at [email protected]. Your question could help to improve the quality of this site for future readers. Of course, any comments about specific cases will remain confidential.
I am charged with domestic assault. Can't we just go to couple counseling and deal with this as a family instead of going to court?
I wish it were that easy. Once someone called the police, the decision whether to prosecute in court is out of your loved one's hands. A police officer's job is to enforce the law, not to serve as a mediator or family counselor. If a police officer is dispatched to a domestic dispute, it is very likely that someone will be arrested regardless of what the parties want. After that, a prosecutor will look at the case to determine whether the arrest has a reasonable chance of getting a conviction in court. Prosecutors do not normally drop charges just because the alleged victim wants them to. Instead, they try to convince them a court order to do anger management classes and maybe a first offender diversion program would be a better choice, even going so far as to suggest it's not a big deal.
If you're charged with domestic assault, you need a lawyer to help you in court. Don't go to court expecting a prosecutor to drop the charge or a judge to dismiss the charge just because you or your loved one wants that to happen. You could lose more than you realize. For more information about domestic assault charges, request a copy of Jen's free report titled “What's Going to Happen to Me? A Defendant's Guide to Domestic Assault Charges”.