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Understanding and Building a Defense Against Malicious Wounding Charges in Virginia

Malicious wounding charges often stem from fights that get too heated and head into violent territory. While the charges can also apply to attempted murder, the majority of cases are situations such as bar fights that escalated too quickly. If you have been charged with malicious wounding, it’s essential you understand what Virginia law is on the matter and work with a quality attorney to build a strong defense.

Virginia Law on Malicious Wounding

Malicious wounding, also known as unlawful wounding, is a variation of Virginia law on assault crimes. The basis of the crime includes malicious intent to harm an individual. The state of Virginia takes malicious wounding very seriously and often involves severe criminal penalties to those proven guilty.

The precise definition of “unreasonable wounding” under Virginia’s code of law states that a person commits this offense if they unlawfully:

  • Shoot, stab, cut, or otherwise wound a victim; or
  • Cause the victim to suffer bodily injury; and
  • Demonstrate an intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill.

There are four variations of malicious wounding charges: unlawful wounding, malicious wounding, aggravated malicious wounding, and malicious wounding against a police officer, firefighter, or another emergency worker.

Unlawful Wounding

This is when malicious wounding occurs without violent intent. One example of this could be viewed as self-defense during a physical altercation. An individual who is convicted of unlawful wounding will face Class 6 felony charges. They can expect a prison sentence between one and five years as well as criminal fines up to $2,500.

Malicious Wounding

The big difference between unlawful and malicious wounding is that the latter involves violent intent. If your actions can be proven to have been motivated or have intentional violence, then chances are you will be prosecuted with malicious wounding. An individual charged with malicious wounding will be facing Class 3 felony charges. Consequences can include criminal fines of up to $100,000, as well as a prison sentence of five to 20 years.

Aggravated Malicious Wounding

Aggravated malicious wounding is when:

  • The victim sustains a severe injury, including permanent and significant physical impairment; or
  • A pregnant victim sustains a severe injury, including, not limited to, involuntary termination of the pregnancy.

Aggravated malicious wounding charges are more serious and are considered to be Class 2 felony charges. Those convicted may receive a sentence to life in prison, as well as criminal fines of up to $100,000.

Malicious Wounding Against Emergency Worker

Finally, the state of Virginia takes malicious wounding against a police officer, firefighter, or another emergency worker quite seriously. There is a minimum two-year prison sentence if convicted of this variation. However, there is one caveat—it must be proven that the defendant was aware of the victim’s job at the time of the assault.

Building a Defense

If you are hoping to build a defense after being accused of malicious wounding, there are a few routes that can be taken depending upon the situation that occurred.


The most common type of defense strategy is proof that the defendant was acting in self-defense. If you can argue that the individual was wounded in order to protect the defendant, your charge could be reduced from Class 3 to Class 6, which means your fines and prison times can be lessened.

Mutual Combat

It is a rare tactic used, but a mutual combat defense is when an assertion is made that the wounded party consented to be touched. An example of this would be a boxing match or other contact sport where an injury occurs.

Offense Mitigation

Sometimes the defense can be mitigated if there are other factors that can be brought into the case. These include:

  • Was alcohol involved?
  • Was the victim drunk and attacking the defendant?
  • Did the victim ingest drugs or any other controlled substance that could have altered behavior or, more importantly, memory?
  • Were both the defendant and victim partaking in illegal behavior like a drug deal?

These could all impact the case and tilt things in favor of the defendant.

Do You Find Yourself in Need of a Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer?

If you've recently found yourself in need of an experienced criminal defense attorney in Virginia you should speak with us as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Fairfax, Virginia law office at 703.277.2811 to schedule your free consultation. We help clients throughout Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia and look forward to helping you.

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