We appeared in the Loudoun County Juvenile and Domestic Relations court today to defend a man charged with Domestic Assault and Battery. Domestic Assault and Battery is the same thing as simple Assault and Battery with one difference — the alleged victim is a family or household member.
An Assault and Battery, in a nutshell, is the slightest touching done in a rude, insulting, or vengeful manner. The most common defense to Assault and Battery is the concept of self-defense. In other words, if someone is hitting you, you don’t have to be passive and you can fight back. However, the self-defense must be proportionate. So, if someone punches you, you don’t have a license to shoot him. Also, the self-defense must be at the same time as the force one is repelling. If someone punches you, you can’t punch him back an hour later, for example.
If the alleged victim is a family or household member, the case is tried in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court — even if both the defendant and complaining witness are adults.
The maximum punishment is a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. This charge is one of the few where the legislature has given judges express permission to dismiss a case if there are good mitigating reasons even if the crime had been committed. (These dismissals are called “deferred dispositions” and usually require completion of various terms, such as social classes or community service).
In the case today, the allegation was that our client assaulted his fiancee. There were physical marks on both members of the couple, but no witnesses. The complaining witness did not want the case to be prosecuted. (The couple had reconciled). However, in Virginia, prosecutors will regularly prosecute domestic assault and battery cases against the will of the complaining witness for public policy reasons.
The complaining witness hired her own lawyer to represent her interests. This is wise. If summoned to court, one should consider having a lawyer on his or her side to protect his or her interests.
When our client’s case was called for trial, the prosecutor chose to dismiss the case rather than prosecute it after all. The prosecutor agreed that he did not have enough evidence to make the trial worthwhile. Cases like this can be difficult to prosecute if there are no witnesses who will testify and if the defendant did not incriminate himself to police at the time of the arrest.