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Fairfax Criminal Defense Blog


Posted by John A. Kassabian | Dec 14, 2021

When police are called to a residence where a domestic disagreement is under way, there's often a lot of confusion and tensions are high. And, because special circumstances surround the way that charges are pressed for Domestic Assault and Battery in Virginia, those charged would benefit from the services of a criminal defense attorney—and victims are also encouraged to hire lawyers.

John Kassabian of Kassabian & Kassabian, P.L.C., in Fairfax, VA, has been serving as a criminal defense lawyer for those charged with domestic assault and battery for decades. He has over 26 years of legal service, experience, and knowledge and can help those who may find themselves accused of this serious crime.


In Virginia, any individual who has unlawful contact, injures, attempts to injure, or threatens a family or household member can be charged with domestic assault and battery. Malicious wounding, unlawful wounding, aggravated malicious wounding, stalking, sexual assault, and violation of protective orders also fall under this umbrella.  

“Family or household members” are defined under Virginia Code Section 16.1-228 as “the person's spouse, whether or not he or she resides in the same home with the person, the person's former spouse, whether or not he or she resides in the same home with the person, the person's parents, stepparents, children, stepchildren, brothers, sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters, grandparents and grandchildren, regardless of whether such persons reside in the same home with the person, the person's mother-in-law, father-in-law, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law who reside in the same home with the person, any individual who has a child in common with the person, whether or not the person and that individual have been married or have resided together at any time, or any individual who cohabitates or who, within the previous 12 months, cohabitated with the person, and any children of either of them then residing in the same home with the person. “

Most crimes in Virginia require that an arrest warrant be issued and the victim press charges against the aggressor before someone can be taken into custody by the police—but in the case of domestic assault and battery, that is not so. Instead, the police officer who responds to the call is required to make an arrest of the primary aggressor and take that person into formal custody. Because the police officer is the one who makes the decision to bring a domestic assault and battery charge, the victim cannot drop the charge, even if the victim may have called the police to calm the situation down and may not want the family member arrested in the first place.    

When responding to a domestic assault and battery call, the arresting officer determines who has acted as the primary aggressor. This is typically based on several different factors, including witness statements, information and evidence about who acted first, severity of injuries, location of injuries, recordings, who acted in self-defense, and what injuries were defensive.


After the primary aggressor has been charged with domestic assault and battery, many events are put in motion. Offenders may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor, which, in Virginia, carries a sentence of up to twelve months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. A Class 6 felony charge may occur when it is alleged the violator has been previously convicted of two or more domestic assault and battery offenses within a period of 20 years, so long as each prior offense occurred on a different date. Class 6 felonies are punishable by one to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,500. Strangulation is always charged as a Class 6 felony.

Whenever a warrant for a violation of domestic assault and battery is issued, the magistrate is required to issue a three day emergency protective order to protect the victim from the primary aggressor. The issuance of the three day emergency protective order is automatic, except if the defendant is a minor, where in such cases, an emergency protective order shall not be required. The conditions of the emergency protective order can be extensive and very invasive.

The victim can file a preliminary protective order for further protection and this may be done on an ex parte basis, which simply means the order is put in place without notification of the defendant. A full court hearing will be had on the preliminary protective order after 15 days and upon service of the preliminary protective order on the alleged abusing person. The person who is charged with domestic assault and battery may be forced to vacate their residence, have no contact with the victim, have no contact with the victim's family or household members, prohibit acts of family abuse or criminal offenses that result in injury to a person or their property, give up the use of their vehicle to the victim, and even relinquish possession of their household pets to the victim. A violation of a protective order results in a Class 1 misdemeanor, where the term of jail sentence imposed cannot be entirely suspended. Repeated violation of protective orders or multiple charges of domestic assault and battery lead to more severe consequences.

A charge of domestic assault and battery can cause major life upheaval for all parties involved. It is important for those charged to retain the services of a criminal defense lawyer in the state of Virginia. A defense lawyer who serves residents of Prince William County and Fairfax County, such as John Kassabian of Kassabian & Kassabian, P.L.C., can provide guidance through this complex, intimidating, and disorienting situation. Find out more about what Kassabian & Kassabian, P.L.C., can do for you by contacting John for a free consultation.

About the Author

John A. Kassabian

John A. Kassabian joined the family firm in 2002 after having served as a Prosecutor in Fairfax County and Prince William County. Specializing in criminal defense, traffic defense and civil related matters, John has an extensive criminal law background and has handled a wide variety of cases for ...

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