Defending Aggravated Assault Charges in Loudoun County: A Primer
The aggravated assault arrest rate bottomed out in 2014. Since then, it’s increased almost every year. Now, law enforcement investigators aggressively pursue cases that, ten years ago, they considered civil matters and dropped. An often over-aggressive investigation usually means additional procedural defenses when the case goes to court. More on that below.
Fortunately, when it comes to defending aggravated assault charges, a Leesburg assault & battery lawyer typically has a plan. If an attorney undermines the evidence, either by reducing its availability or eroding its credibility, or an affirmative defense might apply, an attorney can usually convince prosecutors to reduce the charges to ordinary assault, which is a misdemeanor. Ordinary assault, although it’s a serious crime, doesn’t have the same direct or collateral consequences as felony aggravated assault.
Usually, officers begin aggravated assault investigations by interviewing people in the area with criminal records or who may have had a motive to attack the victim. At this point, they have no evidence of wrongdoing. They just have a hunch.
During these interviews, no matter how informal they are, the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent usually applies.
This protection kicks in the moment officers ask questions, whether or not they’re related to the matter at hand, and the defendant doesn’t feel free to leave. Usually, questions begin when officers initially confront suspects. These suspects also don’t feel free to leave at this point, whether or not they’ve been officially arrested or detained.
If officers don’t like what they hear, they usually ask for permission to search the house. If they find a likely aggravated assault weapon, they seize it, send it to a lab, and technicians claim to find scientific evidence, like hair fibers.
These searches often violate the Fourth Amendment. Officers cannot bully owners into consenting to a search. Furthermore, aside from DNA evidence and fingerprints, the “science” behind scientific evidence is largely nonexistent.
If officers violated a Constitutional provision, a Leesburg criminal defense lawyer can exclude that evidence at trial. The less evidence the state has, the harder it is to prove guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.
Credibility is an issue as well. We mentioned shaky science above. Witness credibility is an issue as well. Police officers are basically professional witnesses. But crime victims and other lay people usually haven’t testified in court before. Therefore, they often cave in under aggressive cross-examination and make inconsistent statements.
Delay is an independent substantive defense. An assault case cannot move forward without the alleged victim’s testimony, at least in most cases. Typically, aggravated assault trials occur a year or more after the incident. By that time, many alleged victims have lost interest in the case or moved away.
Self-defense is the most common aggravated assault affirmative defense. Basically, self-defense is a proportional reaction to an actual or perceived threat. If Ben and Jerry argue, no matter what Ben says, Jerry usually cannot defend himself with a weapon.
Assumption of the risk, which is usually a defense in civil court, could apply in criminal court as well. Football players obviously assume the risk of on-field violence or injury, including on-field fisticuffs. Arguably, they also assume the risk of parking lot fights.
Work With a Savvy Loudoun County Lawyer
There’s a big difference between an arrest and a conviction in criminal law. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Leesburg, contact Simms Showers, LLP, Attorneys at Law. We routinely handle matters throughout Northern Virginia.