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.