Virginia Domestic Violence Laws – Assault on a Family Member VA Code 18.2-57.2
This page is brought to you by one of the top criminal defense and Virginia assault lawyers in the Northern Virginia area: this information is meant to educate, inform, and provide resources to accused individuals, as well as victims of domestic violence in Virginia. If you are searching for information about non-domestic assault and battery, sometimes called simple assault, please see our Virginia assault and battery page covering Va Code 18.2-57 here.
- The first part of our “Virginia assault and battery on a family member” page deals with the legal aspects of the charge: Va Code 18.2-57.2.
- The second part of this page is for those men and women (or children) who may be victims of domestic violence.
Part 2 includes links to Northern Virginia domestic violence resources, domestic violence shelters in the area, as well as Virginia domestic violence programs.
Part 1: A Look at the Virginia Domestic Assault Law VA Code 18.2-57.2
The video below summarizes Part 1: A Look at the Virginia Domestic Assault Law. Although the information presented on this page and website are from our Northern Virginia criminal defense attorney who has had much success representing those accused of Virginia domestic assault charges, there is no substitute for a private conversation with a local Virginia criminal attorney:
You may be searching for domestic violence lawyers in Fairfax VA, Prince William, Arlington, or another area of Northern Virginia. If so, you may send a private message here, and our Fairfax Assault Lawyer Brenton Vincenzes, who represents both defendants accused of violating Virginia Code 18.2-57.2 (Virginia Assault on Family Member) as well as alleged victims, will personally reply as soon as possible.
There are numerous Virginia assault lawyers — the search can grow tiresome — therefore, you may prefer to call us rather than contact us online. And of course, no matter the method of first contact with our law firm, you may schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation at our headquarters in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Virginia domestic violence laws – (Virginia assault on family member charges)
The holiday season is around the corner. As a Northern Virginia criminal law firm in Fairfax, VA, we have noticed a trend: during the winter months, there seems to be an increased number of domestic assault and battery charges in Virginia.
Our Virginia criminal lawyer and local Northern Virginia Domestic Relations Attorney understands the high emotions that both the accused and the alleged victim may be dealing with after a charge of domestic assault (assault and battery on a family or household member).
Each case involving a Virginia assault and battery charge on a family member is unique, but there are some common scenarios.
Your situation may be very different, but consider these hypothetical scenarios. Depending on whether or not your situation is similar to one listed, there may be specific courses of action worth discussing and exploring with your Virginia domestic violence lawyer:
- You have been charged with domestic assault, but the alleged victim does not want you to be prosecuted.
- You punished your child by spanking him or her, and now the police are involved.
- You are an alleged victim of domestic assault; you may be wondering whether or not you need a lawyer yourself.
- You were accused of domestic assault, but in your opinion, you were acting in self-defense.
3 Things to Know About VA Domestic Assault Laws (Basics)
If you take a look at the actual Virginia Code § 18.2-57.2, the 3 following points are immediately apparent:
First, the offense is considered either to be a Class 1 misdemeanor or a Class 6 felony.
The standard first or second offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor. For the penalties that may be imposed by law, see our misdemeanor penalties page via the link in the previous sentence.
The offense is a Class 6 felony if the defendant has already been convicted twice (or more) of assault and battery on a family or household member (or one of the offenses listed below) within a period of 20 years.
The offenses the law lists for purposes of determining whether or not a current conviction should be treated as a misdemeanor or felony as described above are as follows:
- Malicious or unlawful wounding (violation of § 18.2-51)
- Aggravated malicious wounding (violation of § 18.2-51.2)
- Malicious bodily injury by substance (violation of § 18.2-52)
- Strangulation (violation of § 18.2-51.6), or
- The law of a different jurisdiction outside of the Commonwealth, if it contains the same elements.
Second, if the defendant is an adult, then an emergency protective order will automatically be issued by a magistrate upon issuance of the warrant.
Virginia Code § 16.1-253.4 provides the authority to the magistrate to issue this type of protective order. It is important not to violate the terms of a protective order, as it may impact the case as well as constitute a separate criminal offense.
This is one of the most inconvenient aspects of this law when the charge involves an individual who has been arrested, but the alleged victim regrets getting police involved. The accused will have to leave their residence, often having to stay with family, friends, or at a hotel temporarily.
Third, the definition of “family or household member”
It is important for law enforcement officials and the magistrate issuing the warrant to understand. If they do not grasp the definition of the term as it is defined by Virginia Code § 16.1-228 , then the warrant may improperly state that the court with jurisdiction is the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court…if the alleged victim is not a family or household member, the proper court with jurisdiction is the General District Court, and the charge should be simple assault (or if more serious, an aggravated form of assault). If you talk to a local Fairfax domestic assault attorney or our Northern Virginia criminal lawyer, we will ask questions to verify the legitimacy of the charge.
Read the above-mentioned statute or read our section about this particular issue (defining a family or household member for purposes of this law). Not every case is straightforward. Consider the following example:
The Court of Appeals of Virginia held in one case that the alleged victim and defendant lived together in a motel room. They had been in a long term relationship but not married. Even though they were not living in a rented or mortgaged apartment or home, the nature of the relationship, location of the offense, and fact they were living together was sufficient to support the conviction of domestic assault.1
It is impossible to list potential outcomes when no facts are known about a particular case. With that in mind, the following possibilities may or may not be applicable. Be sure to discuss your case with a trusted Virginia assault lawyer or our local Fairfax County Domestic Violence Attorney.
Va Code 18.2-57.3 (First Offense of Domestic Violence / Assault on Family Member in Virginia)
More information about the Virginia domestic violence laws — specifically the first offense statute, Va Code 18.2-57.3 — can be found in the FAQ section below.
Why is it important to develop a defense theory in some cases?
The Virginia Domestic Assault First Offense Dismissal Option Drawback
If the accused party does not qualify to have the charge dismissed pursuant to the first offense law, or if he or she wishes to one day expunge (remove from their criminal record) the arrest for allegedly violating the Virginia assault on a family member and domestic violence law, then it is very important to discuss and explore all possible defenses. A common defense theory in an assault and battery criminal case, whether it is a domestic assault against a family or household member or not, is self-defense.
When is self-defense a viable defense theory to a charge of assault and battery in Virginia? The short answer is that any force used to repel an attacker or aggressor must be reasonable, not retaliatory. Here are a few examples from cases in the past:
In one case, the court made the distinction between retaliation and self-defense.2 If the facts are such that the judge believes the alleged assault and battery was actually an act of retaliation, then that is not considered an act of self-defense. The facts surrounding each case are pivotal, for example:
- How much time elapsed between the act of the alleged victim, and the claimed act of self-defense?
- How much force was used?
- Was there an opportunity to leave the situation and diffuse any further violence?
- Was the claimed act of self-defense an unreasonable level of force (compared to the threat)?
There are countless additional inquiries relevant to a claim of self-defense. These inquiries and facts need to be analyzed by a competent local Northern Virginia assault attorney. There is no reason not to pick up the phone and call one of the domestic violence lawyers in Fairfax VA (or one who serves your locality: Prince William, Arlington, Loudoun, etc.).
Frequently Asked Questions: Virginia Law Assault on a Family Member
What if the alleged victim does not want the Commonwealth to prosecute the defendant?
If the alleged victim and the defendant have reconciled and/or are on good terms…or at the very least, the alleged victim does not wish for the prosecution to pursue the case, then his or her feelings may be taken into consideration.
But the key point to understand is that it is not up to the alleged victim. It is up to the Commonwealth (the prosecuting attorney). Social workers and police officers who took statements or photographs at the scene may also weigh in.
There are, however, measures to help achieve the mutual goals of both parties…especially when a couple has no history of domestic assault; when there are no photos of injury to the alleged victim; and, when the alleged victim is the one who initiated the physical altercation. The defendant accused of domestic violence should talk to a Northern VA assault lawyer and domestic relations attorney as soon as possible…
In some cases (actually, a majority of the cases in our Northern Virginia criminal attorney’s experience), the alleged victim regrets their decision to get police involved. The first thing any good lawyer should do is make sure that the alleged victim is not in danger, or being coerced or intimidated into holding to the position of regret. The same attorney cannot represent both the defendant and alleged victim.
What should I do if I called the police, and I was wrong in doing so…now my significant other faces a career-ending criminal charge of assault on a family member, and I want to rectify the situation?
In some cases (actually, a majority of the cases in our Northern Virginia criminal attorney’s experience), the alleged victim regrets their decision to get police involved. The first thing any good lawyer should do is make sure that the alleged victim is not in danger, or being coerced or intimidated into holding to the position of regret. Once it has been determined that the alleged victim is indeed not in danger and the defendant should be deemed innocent or not guilty, then an attorney for the victim may play a pivotal role in resolving the case favorably for both parties…It may be wise for the alleged victim to also hire counsel to represent his or her interests.
The best thing someone can do in this situation is hire a lawyer…by hiring a lawyer to represent you (the alleged victim), the prosecution will be in a (potentially) bad situation…that is, they will have to deal with two attorneys with clients who want to achieve the same objective…a dropped charge. A dropped charge as opposed to a first offender dismissal will allow for expungement.
What if this is my first offense, do I have an option to avoid a trial and conviction?
There are pros and cons with this choice. In sum, if the defendant qualifies and goes through with the program, he or she can avoid a conviction and get the case dismissed. On the con-side, however, the record of the underlying arrest will not qualify for expungement. In other words, a record check may show the charge of Assault on a Family or Household Member as dismissed, but the fact that the arrest for the charge of domestic violence was made in the first place is stuck on the individual’s record forever.
Read Virginia Code § 18.2-57.3. Below, you can read a summarized version. Do not rely on anything you find online, and be sure to discuss your case with an attorney. This law provides for the following:
To be eligible, the person accused of the Virginia domestic violence charge:
- must have been an adult at the time of the alleged offense;
- must not have been convicted of any assault and battery charge against a family or household member in Virginia or any other state;
- must not have failed to complete a prior deferred dismissal under this law; and
- must meet several other requirements.
Do I have to pay for court ordered programs as part of the Virginia domestic violence first offender law?
The defendant must pay for the court-ordered anger management or other treatment/education services, but for low-income individuals, there may be an option to pay based on ability (such as a sliding scale fee structure).
Additionally, the accused must be on good behavior for a period of time (usually two years), meaning no additional violations of law. Failure to complete the program(s) or to fulfill the two year good-behavior requirement may very well result in a conviction.
The primary reason why some individuals do not wish to take advantage of this Code section (in my experience as a Virginia criminal lawyer and local Fairfax assault lawyer) is the inability to expunge the arrest record. Much like the first offender program for drug possession crimes, the pros and cons of this Code section as it would apply to you or your loved one’s specific situation should be discussed thoroughly in a private setting with a Virginia domestic violence lawyer.
Reporting Requirement for Members of the United States Armed Forces:
Do I have to report a domestic assault charge to the Army, Navy, Air Force, etc.?
Virginia Code § 18.2-57.4 requires the court to report a conviction or finding of guilt to a family advocacy representative of the United States Armed Forces. This applies to active duty members.
Part 2: Domestic Violence in Virginia (Resources, Services, Programs, and Shelters)
domestic violence shelters in Virginia
This part of our page is meant to assist readers with finding resources they need. We represent those accused of domestic violence as well as the victims, so we understand the urgency many people face. Remember, if you face an imminent threat to your health or safety, call 911.
Virginia Domestic Violence Shelters and Resources
Domestic Violence Directory – Nationwide directory service for women
Samaritan House – For those living in the 757 area code and surrounding localities.
Virginia Domestic Violence Defense Attorneys
Northern Virginia Domestic Violence Resources
Bethany House – Northern Virginia domestic violence resources, services, and more.
Doorways – A Northern Virginia domestic violence service provider with an address in Arlington, VA.
Fairfax Domestic Violence Defense Attorneys
Prince William County Domestic Violence Programs, Shelters, Resources
- 703-221-4951 – Hot Line
- Prince William Area: 703-368-4141
Alexandria Domestic Violence Resources
Alexandria Office on Women – Domestic Violence Program
Additional Virginia Domestic Violence Resources
ADAPT: Anger and Domestic Abuse Prevention and Treatment
- 703-471-6096 – 24 hour hot line
- 703-968-4050 – TTY
- 703-228-4848 – 24 hour hot line
- 703-228-1550 – Main number
- 703-527-4077- 24 hour hot line
Fairfax County Victim Assistance Network
National Domestic Violence Hotline
- 800-799-SAFE (7233)
- 800-787-3224 – TTY
Women and Domestic Violence
- 703-360-7273 – 24 hour hot line
- 703-799-8253 – TTY
Virginia Crime Victim Assistance
- 888-887-3418 – INFOLINE
Virginia Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hot Line
The Women’s Center – Domestic Violence Services
703-281-2657 – Vienna, VA
Virginia Domestic Violence / Assault Cases and Assault and Battery Against Family Member Laws
Virginia Domestic Violence Laws
VA code 18.2-57
VA code 18.2-57.2
VA code 18.2-57.3
VA code 18.2-57.4
Virginia Assault Related Case Law
 Harris v. Commonwealth, No. 2818-01-4 CHIEF, 2002 Va. App. LEXIS 622 (Ct. of Appeals Oct. 15, 2002).
 Washington v. Commonwealth, 2006 Va. App. LEXIS 517 (Nov. 14, 2006).
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