Dismissal of Prosecutions by Satisfaction and Discharge
Satisfaction and Discharge, also described as Accord and Satisfaction, permits a Virginia court to dismiss certain misdemeanor charges when a victim acknowledges in writing that he or she has received satisfaction for the injury resulting from an offense. This is a powerful defense option that can result in a dismissal of a case that would otherwise result in a conviction. Here is the full text of the law enacted by the Virginia General Assembly:
§ 19.2-151. Satisfaction and discharge of assault and similar charges.
When a person is in jail or under a recognizance to answer a charge of assault and battery or other misdemeanor, or has been indicted for an assault and battery or other misdemeanor for which there is a remedy by civil action, unless the offense was committed (i) by or upon any law-enforcement officer, (ii) riotously in violation of §§ 18.2-404 to 18.2-407, (iii) against a family or household member in violation of § 18.2-57.2, or (iv) with intent to commit a felony, if the person injured appears before the court which made the commitment or took the recognizance, or before the court in which the indictment is pending, and acknowledges in writing that he has received satisfaction for the injury, the court may, in its discretion, by an order, supersede the commitment, discharge the recognizance, or dismiss the prosecution, upon payment by the defendant of costs accrued to the Commonwealth or any of its officers.
The law of Satisfaction and Discharge encourages private individuals to resolve disputes that have resulted in criminal prosecution by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. Because the parties to a criminal case are the defendant and the Commonwealth of Virginia, victims do not generally get to decide whether their cases are prosecuted or not. This is especially true in domestic violence situations. A victim is merely a witness for the Commonwealth. Regardless, a court may dismiss the prosecution in certain cases under Virginia Code § 19.2-151 over the Commonwealth’s objection if the victim receives satisfaction for his or her injuries. Satisfying an injury usually means financial compensation, but the exchange of money is not necessarily required.
There are some limitations on the application of Satisfaction and Discharge agreements in Virginia criminal cases. First, these agreements cannot resolve felony charges. A misdemeanor charge may only be dismissed by agreement if it is an offense for which there is a remedy by civil action. This means the violation has to be something for which the victim can sue the offender. Disqualifying misdemeanors include those committed:
By or upon any law-enforcement officer;
Riotously in violation of § 18.2-404 (Obstructing Free Passage of Others), § 18.2-405 (Participating in a Riot), § 18.2-406 (Participating in an Unlawful Assembly), and § 18.2-407 (Remaining at Riot or Unlawful Assembly after Warning to Disperse);
Against a family or household member in violation of 18.2-57.2 (Domestic Assault & Battery); or
With the intent to commit a felony.
If the Court accepts the parties’ agreement, then the criminal charge will be dismissed. A dismissal by Satisfaction and Discharge may be eligible for an expungement, which would seal the police and court records relating to the arrest. If you are interested this option, it is important that you contact a Richmond criminal lawyer to review your case before entering into any agreement.