Assault is a fairly common charge, and so as an Arlington assault lawyer, I’ve seen it charged in many instances. Any type of fight that occurs usually ends up with an assault and battery charge. Whether that be a bar fight, a fight that occurs on the street, a fight that occurs in someone’s home.
Another common charge is domestic assault and battery, that’s when people who are related in some way, either by marriage or by blood or are dating and living together, are both the victim and the perpetrator of the offense. If it is a domestic assault charge there are certain outcomes and ramifications that are unique to that charge.
I’ve seen assault charged for throwing objects at people. In one case I remember, someone threw a plunger out of anger and it landed near someone else’s feet. The Commonwealth charged assault in that case but ultimately the defendant was acquitted because the prosecutor couldn’t prove that the person throwing the plunger actually wanted to put another person in fear of being hit with it. So there are a lot of different factors at play in any case.
It is charged very frequently in Arlington. And it’s charged in almost any way you can imagine, in that any kind of touching, or threat of touching, whether it be a fist, a weapon, and or any multitude of objects someone might possess are used to either hit someone else or put that other person in fear of being hit.
Almost all charges in Arlington are serious charges, because the prosecutors take their jobs very seriously and are reluctant to laugh off any charge. The reason why assault is taken so seriously is that in an assault, there is always a complaining witness so it is not a “victimless crime”.
Because there is a human being who feels that they have harmed or threatened or touched in a way that they did not want to be the prosecutor must listen to that person and make sure they feel that the prosecutor has taken the charge seriously.
The complaining witnesses often have unreasonable demands for jail time or harsh punishment, and the prosecutor must take that into account. So because prosecutors have a lot of pressure from individual victims, they tend to prosecute these cases seriously.
There also other ramifications in an assault case that factor into a prosecutor’s decision making process. The prosecutors essentially work for the community they represent. So when one of those constituents feels aggrieved, the prosecutors must take that into account when determining how to handle the case.
These cases are also taken seriously because there is a public safety element to it. When people in the community see a fight breaking out at a bar in Clarendon, let’s say, they want the perpetrators to know that their behavior is not acceptable in their neighborhood. No one wants to live in a violent area, so when an assault takes place in their back yard they look to the prosecutor to send a message and to hold the people involved in the fight accountable.
Because assault is a misdemeanor offense, the case will be heard by a judge in the general district court in Arlington, Virginia which is on the third floor of the courthouse. In Virginia, a defendant has an automatic right to appeal to the circuit court to have a jury to hear the case should they not like the outcome at the general district court stage.
In General District Court, one of four things are likely to happen:
1) There will be a preliminary hearing where the Commonwealth puts on evidence to convince a judge that there is reason to believe that the defendant committed the offense they allege;
2) The defendant will waive the preliminary hearing to put them in the best possible position to bargain with the prosecutor later on;
3) The charge will be amended to a misdemeanor in GDC and a plea to that reduced charged will be entered; or
4) Your case will be dismissed with leave for the prosecution to refile if they so desire (this can happen for any number of reasons).
If there is a preliminary hearing and the judge finds that there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the charged offense, or if the preliminary hearing is waived, the case will be bound over to the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury will then hear the facts (the defendant is not present for this determination) and elect to either indict or not indict the defendant. After that, the case proceeds to Circuit Court where the actual trial will happen unless a plea deal can be worked out.