Living with another person requires boundaries, even if the roommate is a friend or intimate partner. Many college students, like those at the University of Virginia, are placed with roommates whom they have never met. Many people looking to save money will ask a friend to lease an apartment together. Some people will rent out their rooms to complete strangers. When personalities clash or conflicts arise, violence can transpire. Sometimes, this violence is real and other times it is made-up intentionally to get the other person in trouble.
But because the alleged victim and alleged offender are living together, any charges brought could be brought as domestic assault charges rather than assault. Much of it depends on the relationship and the overall circumstances. Bryan J. Jones, an experienced domestic assault defense attorney in Charlottesville, Virginia, has defended clients accused by roommates of assault. He understands the nuances of these cases. He knows how to thoroughly investigate the facts to discover inconsistencies and other valuable information. He knows how to challenge the evidence admitted by the prosecutor. And he knows that getting the best outcome in your case is the most important thing for you and your future.
Below is an overview of roommate violence in Virginia. If you have been charged with either assault or domestic assault of a roommate, contact Bryan J. Jones to learn more about options specific to your case.
Roommate Violence: When is it Assault versus Domestic Assault under Virginia Law?
According to Virginia Code § 16.1-228, assault becomes domestic violence or a domestic assault when it is committed against a family or household member. Because "household" is part of the definition, many people assume a roommate qualifies. But that's not always the case. The roommate qualifies as a household member only when:
- the roommates are cohabitating;
- the roommates in the previous 12 months cohabitated and resided with any of their children.
If you have not had a sexual relationship with the roommate and are not a family member of the roommate, then chances are the charges – if any – will be assault and battery-related charges and not domestic assault charges. Either way though, the consequences can be severe.
Allegations of Roommate Violence: the Consequences for the Alleged Offender
The consequences a person faces after claims of roommate violence can be immediate and long-term. First, you face immediate harm to your reputation and you face a potential protective order that can keep you from returning to your home – whether that's an apartment, room in a house, or a dorm room. The consequences get more serious if a conviction follows a charge.
Criminal Punishment for an Assault Conviction
You also face punishment if you are convicted of assault or domestic assault. This means the potential for incarceration, fines, probation, community service, and other forms of punishment.
Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Record
If you are convicted, the charge will likely not be eligible for expungement. That means you are stuck with a permanent criminal record. The collateral consequences of a criminal record are many, but some of the most persistent and life-changing ones include:
- difficulty obtaining or keeping a job
- difficulty getting housing
- difficulty getting or retaining a professional license
- challenges to custody cases
- challenges to immigration status
- loss of the right to own and use a firearm if the charge is domestic assault
- loss of the right to vote if the charge is a felony assault.
Consequences Specific to College Students
If you are a student, the consequences are longterm and can be devastating. A conviction could mean:
- loss of financial aid, scholarships, or other funding
- loss of on-campus housing
- denied acceptance to graduate school
- problems with obtaining a professional license later.
If you are a student at the University of Virginia or another accredited school, you will also face disciplinary action brought by the school. In the end, it could be suspension or expulsion, depending on the specifics of the case, like if it happened on campus and if the alleged victim was another student.
Defending Against Allegations of Roommate Violence in Virginia
You may be charged with assault or domestic assault, but that does not mean you will ultimately be convicted of the charge. The prosecutor must prove the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Absent this proof, you cannot be convicted. Bryan J. Jones will work tirelessly to challenge the evidence and create the necessary doubt.
In many cases, too, you may have a viable defense. Common defenses include:
- self-defense – the alleged victim (who is also your roommate) attacked you first;
- defense of others – the alleged victim (who is also your roommate) attacked someone else in the home;
- a lie – the alleged victim (who is also your roommate) was motivated by anger, resentment, or something else and falsely accused you of the assault;
- consent – the alleged victim (who is also your roommate) consented to a fight;
- innocence – you didn't do anything and may have an alibi or witnesses.
- accident – any harm done was an accident;
- constitutional violations – the police acted improperly and violated your constitutional rights leading to exclusion of any evidence.
Contact an Experienced Assault Defense Attorney in Charlottesville Today
If you have been charged with assaulting a roommate, you need to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Not only is your freedom at stake, but your future is also at stake. Contact Bryan J. Jones, LLC to schedule a free initial consultation today.