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Accord & Satisfaction May be the Answer in a Fairfax (Virginia) Criminal Action

Posted by George L. Freeman | Oct 17, 2019

Accord and Satisfaction (or Satisfaction and Discharge) is a statutorily sanctioned remedy authorized by the Virginia General Assembly to encourage private citizens to settle their disputes that have ended up in the criminal courts.  The concept of accord and satisfaction is rooted in contract law.  The accord is an agreement to forgive a debt or obligation and the satisfaction is the consideration given in exchange of the agreement.  Virginia's remedy in the criminal context is known as Satisfaction and Discharge.

Virginia Code Section 19.2-151 states that: 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.

This avenue of settlement is unique.  In a criminal case, the parties are the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Defendant.  When a Defendant is charged, for example, with assaulting the Victim, the Victim is not a party to the case.  The Victim is a fact witness.  Even though this is the case, if a Defendant and a Victim work out an agreement, and if the Court accepts that the victim is "satisfied," the Court may dismiss the criminal charge.  This can happen even if the Commonwealth, a party to the case, objects. 

What may satisfy a victim varies.  Sometimes satisfaction is money, other times it could be as simple as an apology.  Whatever it is, once satisfaction is accepted by the court the defendant is no longer under prosecution and in jeopardy of being convicted of a crime.  Additionally, a person who has a charge dismissed by accord and satisfaction can also seek to have the charge expunged from their record.

There are limits to an accord and satisfaction disposition.  First, the charge cannot be a felony.  If the charge is a felony, an accord and satisfaction could only occur if the prosecutor agreed to amend the charge to a misdemeanor.  Secondly, only criminal charges for which there is a civil claim counterpart are eligible for accord and satisfaction.  The question is really this: could the victim sue the defendant in civil court for the criminal conduct?  If the answer is yes, an accord and satisfaction is possible.  Examples include: assault, sexual battery, destruction of property, trespassing, and unlawful entry.  Misdemeanors that would not qualify: Reckless Driving, Disorderly Conduct, DUI, Obstruction of Justice, Resisting Arrest and Drunk in Public.  This is because those offenses do not have actual victims that have civil claims against a defendant.

Essential to the entry of an accord and satisfaction is the consent and cooperation of a victim.  Without such consent and cooperation, this remedy cannot happen. 

About the Author

George L. Freeman

I was born and raised in Fairfax County.  I graduated from Fairfax High School and then from Virginia Tech.  After spending a few years as a bail bondsman and court clerk, I attended the University of Baltimore, School of Law.  I graduated in 2010 with a Juris Doctor, manga cum laude. I spent 9 ...

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