Assault & Battery
Assault and/or Battery are common criminal charges that can result from any kind of argument or fight that gets out of hand, and the police step in.
Every state handles assault charges differently, with varying penalties and legal guidelines and terminology, but we will provide a general overview. As always, the real advice comes when you speak to an attorney who can answer your specific questions about the laws in your state and charges you face.
Criminal Assault Laws
Assault is typically the threat of injury, and is a misdemeanor offense in most cases. Some states designate Simple Assault as the least serious offense, while other states have degrees (1st degree assault, 2nd degree assault, etc, with the Lowest degree usually as the most serious). Some states have different laws if there is no intent, and classify reckless behavior that could cause injury as endangerment.
You can be charged with assault for a “near miss”, or even one that isn’t even that close. But if the police, prosecutor or a witness claims that you intended to injury a person, or felt the threat or danger of being injured, you can be arrested on assault charges.
Aggravated Assault, or Assault with a Deadly/Dangerous Weapon is a Felony level offense.
These more serious charges are reserved for cases where it is alleged that there was a threat or risk of serious bodily harm and injury.
Aggravated assault can also be an enhancement of an assault charge due to specific circumstances or victim status. An assault charge can become aggravated assault if it is an assault on a minor, assault on the elderly, or an assault on a police officer or public official.
And even with aggravated assault charges, you can still be charged even if there is no injury. If you drive too close to a pedestrian, you could be charged with aggravated assault.
Battery and the more serious felony level battery offenses (Aggravated Battery) are used when a person is physically harmed or injured in the incident. The more serious the injury, the greater the offense, and the possible penalties.
The Real Deal on Fighting Assault Offenses in Court
Most criminal defense attorneys and police officers will tell you that a typical assault case involved a fight. It could be a bar fight, or any situation where tempers flair, someone gets hurt, and the police are involved.
What police officers won’t tell you is that they aren’t always that picky about who gets arrested. They may honestly not know exactly what happened, or who is telling the truth. The police just want to calm the situation down.
If one of the parties involved calls the police first, then the other person probably gets arrested, regardless of what happened, or who started it. And sometimes the person who ends up getting more seriously injured is considered the victim, even if that person actually started the fight!
The bottom line is, it often takes a court case and a good attorney to argue the facts of your case to get it sorted out fairly.
How to Defend Against an Assault Charge
Your attorney may need to subpeona witnesses who can help explain your side of the story. Self defense is a perfectly reasonable claim. If a person comes at you, you have a fight to defend and protect yourself.
And of course, if a witness is lying, we’ll need to challenge that evidence and testimony in court.
However, if you think you made a terrible mistake, and lost your temper or were drunk, there may be other options to keep your record clean. Many states have deferred prosection laws, where your case can be put aside and not prosecuted if you agree to anger management classes, or alcohol or substance abuse programs, or other court imposed conditions. If you currently have a clean record and quality for these programs, your case may be dismissed after a year, assuming you comply with the program demands and don’t get in any further trouble.
These laws are complicated, and the options tricky. It makes sense to speak to a defense attorney about your charges. He or she will offer you a free consultation to let you evaluate your available legal defense choices.