Although there are many levels of charges where the crime of assault is concerned, they are all very serious. Simple assault is less severe than aggravated assault nonetheless charges of simple assault can still cause you considerable problems in your life, both present and future. Simple assault is generally a misdemeanor, meaning it is a less serious crime and will bring no more than one year in jail. Charges of simple assault mean you have caused another person to be apprehensive and fearful that you will cause them harm. No touching actually has to occur for charges of simple assault to be filed although generally speaking assault entails touching without consent or the act of one person applying indirect or direct force to another human being without their consent.
There have been many cases of two people in a verbal argument which escalated to the point where one of them made a threat which the other considered to be serious enough that there might actually be a follow-through. For instance, if you tell another person you are going to punch them in the face and that person reasonably believes you will do so, then simple assault has occurred. In other cases two people could be engaged in a verbal argument and one of them pokes the other on the shoulder in order to make his or her point. This can be considered simple assault if it could reasonably have caused the other person to be fearful. Pointing a weapon of any type can be considered simple assault even if the person pointing the weapon did not actually intend to use the weapon.
Aggravated assault is a much more serious crime, with much more serious penalties and punishments. Aggravated assault can be charged when assault with a deadly weapon takes place. Wearing a disguise in the commission of assault can bump up the charges to aggravated assault (when the alleged perpetrator has taken care to disguise his or her face). Further, certain groups of people are more protected than the general public in that if simple assault is directed toward them it can automatically be enhanced to aggravated assault. These groups include police officers, firefighters, park rangers, state or federal employees and teachers. Aside from this group, aggravated assault generally wounds, disfigures or endangers the life of the alleged victim.
Unfortunately, because charges of assault can be somewhat subjective, there are instances where a person is unfairly charged with the crime of assault. A conviction for assault—simple or aggravated—can have very far-reaching effects. The convicted person will end up with a permanent criminal record which can prohibit them from finding employment or housing, returning to college with a government loan or obtaining a professional license. In addition, there is the stigma surrounding a criminal conviction.
If you’ve been charged with assault it is imperative that you immediately seek legal representation. Perhaps the most common defense to charges of assault are consent and self-defense, and your attorney will explore all the options for your specific case to determine the best course of action for you and your future.
While the act of assault is serious enough, assaulting a person who is considered a public official can significantly enhance the penalties in the event of a conviction. Even when the assault victim is not a public official, if convicted the penalties can include fines and court costs, time spent in jail, the loss of the right to own a gun, mandatory anger management classes, probation including electronic monitoring and restitution to the victim. As you can see, the stakes in charges of assault are high. Simple assault may be charged in a variety of ways, depending upon the mitigating circumstances. Generally speaking, if a person attempts to cause bodily harm to another, if bodily injury is negligent and includes a deadly weapon, or if a threat is made against another which puts them in fear of bodily harm, then simple assault is charged.
Assault May Be Charged When Injury Does Not Occur
Remember, lasting injuries are not necessary for assault to be charged. If the incident causes even temporary pain or discomfort, includes any unwanted or offensive physical contact or a credible threat, then assault may be charged. This means that shoving another person out of your way—no matter the reason—or even threatening to harm another person can land you in serious hot water. Some of the factors which will influence the assault charges and subsequent penalties include the specific circumstances of your crime, where the assault took place, whether bodily injury occurred, whether the assaulted person was a minor or on school property, any prior history of convictions, whether the victim was a public official and, of course, on the skill and experience of your criminal defense attorney.
Charges of aggravated assault are much more serious than those of simple assault. If your assault was against a public official including: police officer, security guard, fireman, judge or teacher then aggravating circumstances apply. The result can be a penalty which is enhanced to include a minimum sentence of ninety days in jail. You may find that it takes much less to get yourself charged with assault and battery on a public official than on anyone else. Aggravated assault may also be charged when the assault was against a family member, serious bodily injury occurred, a deadly weapon was used, you threatened another person with a gun or the assault occurred as you attempted to elude arrest or while resisting arrest.
What is Serious Bodily Injury?
Serious bodily injury may be defined as any injury which creates the risk of death or causes permanent disfigurement. Short-term loss of the function of any body part, organ or any of the five senses is also considered serious bodily injury. The wording of your charges can be critical: Recklessly causing injury with a deadly weapon may be charged as a fourth degree felony bringing up to a year and a half in prison, while purposely causing injury with a deadly weapon can be charged as a third degree felony, bringing up to five years in prison. Should you have shown extreme indifference to human life, your assault may be charged as a second degree felony, bringing up to ten years in prison.
If you have been charged with assault, take these charges very seriously and hire a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible following your charges. Don’t speak to the police without your attorney present—your right to remain silent is an important one that you should respect. Your criminal defense attorney will assess all the facts of your case and determine the best option for your future.
Indecent assault is a form of touching which the person finds offensive and occurs on specific body parts. In other words, when one person touches another in an “indecent way” on the buttocks, breasts or genitals without their consent indecent assault has occurred. Even a kiss using the tongue without the other person’s consent can result in charges of indecent assault, although it would be more difficult to obtain a conviction if that were the only contact. The alleged victim must have been at least fourteen years of age at the time of the contact, the accused must have touched the alleged victim with no justification, the touching must be considered indecent, and the alleged victim must not have given consent.
The Difference in Indecent Assault and “Regular” Assault
The crime of indecent assault and battery is considerably different from “regular” assault and battery in specific ways. Typically, charges of indecent assault are usually brought months—or even years—after the alleged incident took place. This can cause a considerable problem in the prosecution of the crime as memories tend to fade over time and the facts of the case can become distorted meaning reasonable doubt can definitely exist. The evidence for an indecent assault and battery tends to be much more exacting than that of a more typical assault and battery.
Sex Offender Registration Required
The crime of indecent assault is a sexual offense and as such can exposed the person convicted to an entire battery of penalties as well as the necessity of registering as a sex offender for years or even a lifetime. Registering as a sex offender can literally change your life and your future and can provide just the opportunity for the police to re-arrest you for the most minor mistake, exposing you to further jail time. Convictions for the crime of indecent assault can carry penalties of up to five years in state prison. Charges of indecent assault are extremely serious and very complex and require the services of a highly qualified criminal defense attorney in order to ensure the accused’s rights are fully protected.
Indecent Assault on a Child Under the Age of Fourteen
The inappropriate touching of a person under the age of fourteen is a much more serious crime as the law says a child of this age is unable to give consent to be touched therefore the element of consent does not exist. All other elements of the crime remain the same however the penalties for a conviction are much more severe, bringing as much as ten years in a state prison as well as the necessity of registering as a sex offender and providing a sample of DNA.
Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney to Protect Your Future
Your attorney may attempt to have the charges reduced to a simple assault and battery in order to avoid the seriousness of sex offender registration. Your attorney may be able to offer the argument that your actions did not meet the legal standards for indecent assault, that the alleged victim actually consents, that you did not have the intent to touch the alleged victim inappropriately or that the touching which occurred was not, in fact, indecent. Hire an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately when charges have been filed and your chances of minimizing the damage to your future are much more likely.
Assault charges are criminal charges which contain the act of violence. Should there have been a weapon used in the commission of the assault, the severity of the charges will escalate accordingly. By the same token, if injury occurred as a result of the assault, the penalties and punishments will be much harsher. Contingent upon the specific circumstances, the act of criminal assault could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony with wide-ranging consequences. Simple assault is a much less seriously punished crime and usually involves a situation where law enforcement personnel actually saw the assault occur—except in the instance of domestic violence.
Assault Charges With No Physical Contact
Further, charges of simple assault are entirely possible even if the accused never actually threw a punch. Suppose two neighbors are engaged in a verbal disagreement over the tree branches from one neighbor’s tree which fell into the other neighbor’s perfectly manicured lawn during a severe storm. Voices are raised and tempers are flaring. One neighbor taps his finger on the other’s chest in the interest of making his point and finds himself under arrest for simple assault. Even more surprising to most people is that a mere vow of injury could also result in assault charges being filed. If the person you threaten to kick, hit, or otherwise harm has good reason to believe you might actually carry through with that threat, you could be charged with assault.
The Subjective Nature of Assault Charges
As you can see it is a pretty subjective area. Suppose a wife was getting a little too cozy with her co-worker. The husband observes the behavior and later, when the couple is deep into an argument the husband’s temper explodes and he yells “I could just strangle you.” Bad choice of words—sure. The question is whether it was a valid threat and whether the wife truly believes that her husband would put his hands around her throat and strangle her given the chance. Most adults can remember a time when they have uttered words in anger they later wished they could take back. Did they really mean they would kill the other person? Doubtful. Did the other person actually believe the one yelling the threat absolutely intended to kill them? Depends on the circumstances, but in many cases it is unlikely.
Penalties for Assault
Therefore, you could certainly be charged with assault were you to hit, kick or choke another person, you might also find yourself under arrest for simply saying you would like to do those things. If only a minor bump or bruise were to occur, a Class A misdemeanor could lead to a fine of as much as $4,000 while a other assault crimes could be elevated to a third-degree felony leading to two to ten years in prison. Should a simple assault be perpetrated against a family member, spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend it may automatically turn into a third degree charge. If you were to poke or elbow another person it would normally result in misdemeanor charges. However, if that person was older or officiated sports, the charges might be changed to a Class B crime. When a weapon is used in the commission of assault, it becomes aggravated assault and can lead to as much as two decades in prison and fines as high as $10,000.
Defense to the Crime of Assault?
If you have been charged with criminal assault or even if you think charges are likely, you need to contact a highly qualified criminal defense attorney at the first opportunity. Whether your attorney chooses—after discussing all your options—to completely dispute that the assault ever took place or whether they plan on questioning the validity of the alleged evidence it is crucial they be brought on board very quickly if you want them to be able to prevent your life from being altered in a negative manner for the remainder of your life. The crime of assault is very serious and you must treat it as such.
Many people are shocked to find out that assault charges can be leveled against a person who has merely threatened violence but has not actually hit or otherwise touched the target of their anger. In other instances a verbal altercation between neighbors in which one ends up poking the other in the chest with a finger to make a point can also lead to charges of assault. Therefore a person who believes you intend them harm or fears harm after you have threatened to hit or kick them can charge you with assault, although it could be harder to prove than a case where there is physical evidence of your anger or where there were witnesses. In most cases simple assault is charged as a misdemeanor—assuming only minor injuries were received.
This could change if the person who was assaulted was elderly, a government official, a sports officiator, a security guard or any other type of public servant. In these instances a Class B misdemeanor could be upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor. If the assault was against a member of your family, a spouse or partner, the charges could be elevated to a third-degree felony. Depending on where you live, a simple Class A misdemeanor assault can bring fines as high as several thousand dollars and jail time from a few days to a year. Simple assault is generally charged when there is a bar brawl or when a fight or scuffle ensued from a mutual altercation. In most jurisdictions, simple assault charged as a Class A or B misdemeanor will be handled through the Municipal Court where the alleged assault occurred.
The use of a weapon when committing the crime of assault elevates the charges to aggravated assault. Aggravated assault can be charged as a second, third or fourth-degree felony charge, depending on the circumstances and the state of residence. Penalties for aggravated assault are much more severe than those for simple assault. Should the victim have been a law enforcement officer, a public official, a security guard, a firefighter, teacher, medical professional, prison guard, witness to a crime or an informant then it can actually become a first-degree felony, punishable from five years to live in prison along with extensive fines. Aggravated assaults generally result in serious physical injury, cause temporary but significant disfigurement or injury to another person, occur after the accused entered another’s private residence or are committed with a deadly weapon.
Defenses to the Crime of Assault
It is critical that you hire a highly experienced assault attorney as soon in the process as possible. Even if you have an idea that you will be charged with assault at any level, you must get competent legal assistance in order to minimize the long-term effects of an assault conviction. If you feel you are innocent, your attorney may choose to dispute whether an assault—in the legal sense of the definition—actually took place. The evidence may be called into question, or if there was eyewitness testimony the attorney may challenge whether the witnesses actually saw what they said they saw. An affirmative defense could be launched on your behalf meaning the person accused admits the assault but believes they had a legal and compelling reason to do so. This means the person assaulted another in order to prevent them from stealing something or from harming someone in their family. Regardless of the method your attorney chooses to defend you against assault charges, aggressive intervention is crucial.