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Understanding Virginia assault laws

When people are accused of assault, some may not always take this charge seriously. However, assault charges can quickly change from a misdemeanor to a felony, and it is important to understand the severity of these charges, as well as the penalties.

When most people think about assault, they may picture a drunken fight which gets out of control. FindLaw says that people can be charged with assault if they either physically harm someone or attempt to. While threatening language may sometimes be viewed as part of an assault, usually a person needs to intend to harm someone else. 

In Virginia, the severity of an assault charge depends on the identity of the person who has been harmed. According to the Virginia Law Library, a general assault case is usually considered a Class 1 misdemeanor. People can be convicted of a Class 6 felony, though, if they harm someone who works for the state in law enforcement or as a judge. This also includes people such as conservation officers and county sheriffs and people who are part of a volunteer emergency medical service. If someone is convicted of this kind of assault, they are typically imprisoned for at least six months.

A person can also be convicted of a Class 6 felony if they harmed someone for a specific reason, such as national origin, religion or race. Someone who does this is generally imprisoned for at least 30 days. Additionally, people may be imprisoned for 15 days if they harm someone who works as a health care provider or as a teacher. Assaulting people who work in education or healthcare is usually a Class 1 misdemeanor.

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