Domestic assault is a very serious charge that brings with it serious consequences. Many facing domestic assault have had no prior experience with the criminal justice system, and it is possible to be charged with assault even if you did not touch the other person. BenGlassLaw's criminal defense attorney, James Abrenio, will talk with you about your charges and help you review your options.
BenGlassLaw and James Abrenio offer a one-time consultation for criminal clients. During this initial meeting, we will review your charges and discuss what you can expect. If you've been charged with domestic assault, this consultation is a critical first step for your case.
Protecting Your Rights When You Have Been Charged with a Crime
A criminal charge can have a serious impact on your personal life, your job, and your future. The stress and the stigma that comes with a criminal charge is overwhelming, but first and foremost you must protect your rights.
Americans are guaranteed the right to a speedy trial. This means that if you are charged, the Commonwealth will bring your case before a judge as soon as possible, sometimes a few days or weeks after you were charged with a crime. This is why it is important to contact an attorney about your case immediately so you are represented fairly in court.
The best time to contact an attorney about your charge is immediately after you've been arrested. If you delay in contacting an attorney, you could find yourself in court being represented by a public defender who juggles dozens of cases and has limited time to prepare for your case. However, if you proactively contact and consult with an attorney, you can ensure you have a prepared advocate on your side when you are due in court.
What is Domestic Assault in Virginia?
In Virginia, you can be convicted of domestic assault when two primary facts are established:
- The complainant against you is a spouse, former spouse, household or family member; and
- You either
- willfully touched the complainant, without legal justification, in an angry, rude, or vengeful manner; or
- you committed an overt act intended to harm the complainant with the ability to do so; or
- you committed an overt act meaning to place the complainant in fear of harm and that person was placed in fear of harm.
This definition raises a couple of important points. First, there is no requirement that physical harm or injury be inflicted to be convicted of domestic assault. Rather, mere touching of the complainant in an inappropriate way may be enough. That means a push, shove, slap, or grab can be considered domestic assault. Even if these actions are committed during the context of a mutual argument, it is possible to be convicted.
Additionally, you aren’t even required to have touched the other person if you had the intent to harm them when you took action. For instance, throwing an object towards a person, and not actually having contact with them, may be enough. Therefore, the threshold for being convicted of domestic violence is lower than most believe.
Additionally, depending on the case, a protective order may also be filed against you.
If you have been charged with domestic assault, you can speak with an attorney by calling BenGlassLaw at (703)584-7277.
Consequences of a Domestic Assault Conviction
In Virginia, a domestic assault is a Class I Misdemeanor. A Class I Misdemeanor is any offense for which you can be incarcerated for a period of up to twelve (12) months, receive a fine of up to $2,500.00, or both. While these are maximums, the actual jail time and fine you receive depends on the underlying facts of the case, your record, and other variables.
A domestic assault conviction carries additional consequences. First, individuals convicted of a domestic assault are prohibited by federal law from owning firearms. Individuals in law enforcement, security, or military will have serious issues if convicted of domestic assault.
A conviction also requires you to have no contact with the complaining witness for up to two years. Depending on the facts of the case, the prohibited contact may be only no “assaultive or harassing” contact. In other instances, you may be prohibited from contact with the complainant outright. This “no contact” requirement can have serious issues when it comes to individuals who are married or have children. It could expose you to additional criminal liability.
A domestic assault conviction also requires you to be placed on probation for a period of time, generally one to two years. During that time, you must avoid further violations of law and be of general good behavior. You must also enter and complete a domestic violence course and, often, a domestic violence clinical assessment to determine if you need additional treatment. The treatment portion requirements can be taxing and time-consuming. Failure to complete such requirements will obligate you to reappear before the court to answer for your failure to comply.
If you are not a US citizen, a domestic assault can have serious immigration consequences. If you are an American citizen and have a security clearance, such a conviction can also cause issues. Finally, domestic assault carries with it the added stigma attached to such a charge. These consequences are not exhaustive and additional; unforeseen consequences can be caused by a conviction.
What Is a “Deferred Finding” and Is It Worth It?
If you have never been convicted of a domestic assault, the court has the discretion to grant you a “deferred finding.” A deferred finding is when you agree in open court that there is enough evidence of your guilt to convict you, and the court makes a finding that there exists sufficient evidence to find you guilty. But it withholds finding you guilty for a period of time (usually two years). During that time, you are placed on probation, prohibited from possessing or owning firearms, required to complete to a domestic violence evaluation and domestic violence classes, prohibited from committing additional violations of law, having no contact with the complainant, and possibly other requirements. If at the end of that period, you comply with all of the court's requirements, the charge is dismissed.
In some cases, a deferred finding is very favorable. If the Commonwealth Attorney, known in other states as the district attorney, has enough evidence to convict you, a deferred finding provides an avenue to prevent a conviction on your record, allows you to own firearms after you are off of probation, and other benefits.
Nevertheless, a deferred finding has its downfalls. First, you cannot have a deferred finding expunged from your record. That means that the record of your arrest will always be maintained by law enforcement. Second, even if you accept the deferred finding, you can ultimately be convicted of the charge and sentenced if you fail to comply with all of the conditions imposed by the court. Thirdly, a deferred finding, in some instances, can be just as bad as a conviction itself. For instance, for non-US citizens, a deferred finding in many instances can be treated the same as a conviction for immigration purposes.
I have had many cases where I have represented clients on probation violations after they received a deferred finding. They then tell me the facts of their underlying domestic assault charge, and it turns out that they had possible defenses to the charge. When I ask them why they accepted the deferred finding, they inform me that the Commonwealth Attorney in their case said it would lead to a dismissal. Unfortunately, they failed to tell them the issues with the deferred finding.
When determining whether to accept a deferred finding, you need retain an attorney. You should also be aware that EVEN IF YOU CONTEST THE CHARGE AND LOSE, the court still has discretion to grant you a deferred finding. In practice, whether you will get a deferred finding after losing at trial depends on the particular facts of your case, the Commonwealth Attorney handling your case, and the particular judge and jurisdiction before which you be will appearing.
Want a professional on your side to advocate for you during your domestic assault case? Call BenGlassLaw at (703)584-7277.