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Erin L.T. Ranney, PLLC

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Criminal Law Spotlight - February 2018

Domestic Assault

Domestic Assault


  Domestic assault is a very serious offense in Virginia.  There are several offenses that can qualify as what the society thinks of as domestic violence.  The primary statute is:


18.2-57.2. Assault and battery against a family or household member; penalty.


A. Any person who commits an assault and battery against a family or household member is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

B. Upon a conviction for assault and battery against a family or household member, where it is alleged in the warrant, petition, information, or indictment on which a person is convicted, that such person has been previously convicted of two offenses against a family or household member of (i) assault and battery against a family or household member in violation of this section, (ii) malicious wounding in violation of  18.2-51, (iii) aggravated malicious wounding in violation of  18.2-51.2, (iv) malicious bodily injury by means of a substance in violation of  18.2-52, or (v) an offense under the law of any other jurisdiction which has the same elements of any of the above offenses, in any combination, all of which occurred within a period of 20 years, and each of which occurred on a different date, such person is guilty of a Class 6 felony.

C. Whenever a warrant for a violation of this section is issued, the magistrate shall issue an emergency protective order as authorized by  16.1-253.4, except if the defendant is a minor, an emergency protective order shall not be required.

D. The definition of "family or household member" in  16.1-228 applies to this section.

(1991, c. 238; 1992, cc. 526, 886; 1996, c. 866; 1997, c. 603; 1999, cc. 697721807; 2004, cc. 448738; 2009, c. 726.)


Break down:

- While the above Code section is primarily what is charged in a domestic situation, there are several other possibilities including: Malicious Wounding, Aggravated Malicious Wounding, Sexual Assault, Murder, and Violations of Protective Orders.

- These type of cases are heard in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations courts - these are also known as "family" courts.  Two people do not have to be husband and wife for someone to be charged under this statute.  The relationship of the parties need only fall under the definition of "family or household member" found in Virginia Code section 16.1-228.

- If that Code section is charged, then the Commonwealth must prove the "family or household member" relationship exists as described in the Code.  This may be done through the testimony of the victim or other witnesses.

- There have been a number of recent cases discussing what constitutes a "family member" under the Code section.  The things that are examined include living arrangements, financial arrangements, and elements of companionship.

- The courts of late have found many same sex partner relationships to constitute "family" relationships under the definitional section of these statutes.

- Many times when an offense of domestic assault issues, a protective order automatically issues.  A charge of violating a protective order is a very serious offense that can carry mandatory jail time.

-An assault and battery under the common law requires only an unwanted touching and injury, however slight.  Adams v. Commonwealth, 534 S.E.2d 347.

- For a third offense of domestic assault or higher the offense can be charged as a felony.  This is an example of a "three strikes" law.  The punishment for a third or more domestic assault can be severe.

- A domestic assault does have a statutory alternative disposition, so it is important to consider all the options when looking at how to handle the case.

Protective Orders in Virginia are available to victims of domestic assaults and other domestic crimes.  They have their own set of rules and procedures that are separate from criminal cases and are a civil matter.  However, violations of a protective order are a criminal offense that carries the potential for mandatory jail time.  Child Protective Orders that arise out of domestic situations are different, but can carry similar penalities depending on the facts.  Please see our section on Family Law.


Remember, domestic assault is a broad crime under Virginia law with a variety of dispositions.   If you are charged with domestic assault or any other criminal offense call me today for a free consultation.

Domestic Assault Facts



Misdemeanor offense if charged as a simple assault and battery.

Felony - if charged as third offense or more domestic assault or if it is charged as a more aggravated offense than assault.

Maximum punishment:


Misdemeanor - maximum of 12 months in jail, $2500 fine, and potentially a no contact order or an issuance of a Protective Order

Felony - felony domestic assault third offense is a Class 6 felony.  The maximum prison sentence is 5 years and the maximum fine of $2500.

Interesting Facts:  A person can be found guilty of domestic assault for something as simple as pushing another person or throwing a piece of paper at them.