The following is taken from an interview with an Arlington assault on an officer lawyer as he discusses what to expect from this type of charge. If you have been charged with assaulting an officer, schedule a free consultation with a lawyer today.
The Commonwealth must first prove that either an assault or an assault and battery occurred. They must also prove that the alleged victim of the crime was a police officer, judge, correctional officer, a firefighter, EMS worker, or other law enforcement as defined in the Code section.
And they must prove that the person charged with the crime knew at the time of the incident that the other person was a law enforcement officer.
And lastly, the Commonwealth must prove that at the time of the incident, the victim was engaged in the performance of their public duties as a law enforcement officer.
So those are the elements the Commonwealth must prove in this type of case. If they are missing even one element, the person will be acquitted of this charge (there are other charges for which a person can be convicted, but it will not be this charge).
Assault on an officer is a class six felony. If someone is convicted of this offense they will be sentenced to at least six months in jail and up to five years in prison in addition to probation and a fine of up to $2500.
Probation is almost certainly going to happen. If you’re convicted with a felony in Arlington County, it is a very rare case that doesn’t include a period of probation. Even if for some reason probation was not ordered, there is a mandatory period of post-release supervision under Virginia law, which is very similar to probation.
A conviction will almost certainly result in felony probation for a period of at least two to five years. During that time the person will be placed on supervised probation with various requirements as determined by the probation officer.
Like any other felony, this will first be heard on the third floor of the court house in the General District Court. In that court, one of several things will happen, there will either be a preliminary hearing in which the Commonwealth will put on evidence to show that probable cause exists to believe that the defendant committed the crime they say he did. Or, the defendant will waive that preliminary hearing. If an agreement can be reached with the prosecutor the defendant can plead guilty to a misdemeanor offense in General District Court. There is also a chance that the Commonwealth will realize that they don’t have a good case and will dismiss at that stage.
If the judge finds after the preliminary hearing that probable cause does exist, or if the defendant waives the preliminary hearing, the case will be bound over to the grand jury. A grand jury is composed of members of the community who convene and hear evidence from one witness about the allegations. The defendant cannot present evidence and is not present for this presentation. Hearsay is admissible and the rules of evidence don’t apply. The grand jury indicts almost every case that comes before them.
Once the grand jury indicts the defendant, the case moves to the circuit court which is physically is on the tenth floor of the court house in Arlington. And there in the circuit court, the defendant will either take a plea to a charge of any kind or will have a trial, typically with a jury, which will also be hard on the tenth floor in the court house of Arlington County.