Domestic violence is a serious offense that may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony in Virginia. If you have been charged with assault and battery against a family member, it is crucial to understand that defenses may be possible, even if you believe you are guilty.
Our experienced Manassas criminal defense lawyers consider all applicable defense options for all of our clients after carefully reviewing the cases against them. Here, we explain some common reasons why domestic violence charges are dismissed in Virginia.
Assault and Battery Against a Family Member Offense and Penalties in VirginiaOne of the key statutes related to domestic violence against a household or family member is Virginia Code § 18.2-57.2. A family or household member includes:
- Immediate family and step-family members like parents, children, siblings
- A person the accused had a child with
- Other individuals who live together or have resided together in the last 12 months
The elements of domestic violence against a family or household member are similar to the crime of assault and battery. The battery must be the willful and unlawful touching of someone in a rude, angry, or vengeful manner. An assault occurs when the accused engages in an overt act with the intent to cause bodily harm and has the present ability to injure the victim.
The possible penalties for violating this statute depend on the circumstances of the case. Generally, a first offense is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punished by a sentence of up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
However, if the defendant has been convicted of two or more domestic violence offenses, they can be convicted of a Class 6 felony. The judge could sentence them to a prison sentence of up to five years.
Common Reasons Domestic Assault and Battery Charges Are Dismissed
If you have been charged with domestic violence in Virginia, it is essential to be aware of the common reasons that can lead to the dismissal of the charges. While every case is unique, the following factors may contribute to a successful defense:
Lack of Evidence
If the prosecutor has insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that domestic assault or battery occurred, the charges may be dropped. A skilled criminal defense attorney can raise challenges to the credibility and reliability of the evidence presented by the prosecution.
History of False Accusations
If the alleged victim has a history of making untrue accusations, it can significantly undermine their credibility. The prosecutor could decide that the past false accusations may cast doubt on the current allegations and request the charges be dismissed.
Lack of Cooperation
Sometimes, the alleged victim may choose not to cooperate with the prosecution. If they refuse to testify or provide essential information, it can weaken the case against the accused. Without the victim's cooperation, the prosecution may struggle to prove their case, potentially leading to a dismissal.
In certain situations, a third party, such as a neighbor, may call the police about what they perceive to be domestic assault. However, if they misinterpret or are confused about the situation, it may provide a valid defense and result in the dismissal of the charges.
If the accused can establish that they acted in self-defense, it can serve as a valid defense against domestic violence charges. To assert self-defense successfully, the defendant must demonstrate that the actions taken were reasonable and necessary to protect them from harm.
Defense of Another Person
Similar to self-defense, if the accused can prove that their actions were taken to protect another person from harm, it can be a viable defense strategy. This defense may apply when the accused reasonably believed that immediate intervention was necessary to prevent harm to someone else.
Presenting a solid alibi can cast doubt on the accusations and potentially lead to the dismissal of charges. Providing evidence or witnesses who testify to the accused's presence elsewhere during the alleged incident can be crucial in establishing a solid alibi defense.
Violation of Constitutional Rights
Law enforcement officers must adhere to strict protocols and respect the accused's constitutional rights during the arrest and investigation process. If the police engaged in an unlawful search or seizure, failed to give Miranda warnings, or committed other violations, crucial evidence may be suppressed, weakening the prosecution's case and potentially leading to the dismissal of charges.
The success of these defense strategies depends on the specific circumstances of your case. Consulting with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer is crucial to analyze the evidence, evaluate the available defenses, and develop a strong legal strategy tailored to your situation.