Assault is commonly termed with battery and it brings up images of bar fights and brawls, but the terms actually have two separate legal meanings. In brief, an assault is an attempt or threat to injure a victim, while battery would be physically contacting the victim in a harmful or offensive manner. For the purposes of this article we will be focusing on assault charges.
Federal Assault Charges
Not all people are aware that an assault charge will either be a federal or state offense, simply based on where it takes place. Assaults that occur on the grounds of a national park, in a federal prison, or on board a US ship, (and several other places) are federal crimes. In addition, the following assault offenses are also subject to federal prosecution:
- Assault with intent to commit murder or a felony: This is an assault designed to kill. Perpetrators will also be separately charged with assault if they use a weapon while committing any other felony, e.g. pointing a knife in order to rob someone
- Assault with a dangerous weapon: This is when the accused strikes, wounds, or physically threatens the victim with a dangerous weapon while having the intent to cause harm
State Assault Charges
In most states, an assault is committed when a perpetrator tries to or does physically strike another person. It also includes acting in a threatening manner to cause fear of immediate harm. A more serious or “aggravated” assault occurs when there is severe injury or when the injury is caused through the use of a deadly weapon.
The legal definitions for assault vary from state-to-state, but as stated above, assault is an attempt to injure someone else, and can include threats or threatening behavior against others. Many people do not realize that there doesn’t have to be actual physical harm for assault charges to be laid but it is necessary for a criminal “act” to occur. The type of act for assault charges can vary widely, but it typically requires an overt or direct act that would put a reasonable person in fear of imminent harm.
The Intent Requirement
In order to commit an assault the perpetrator only needs to have a “general intent”. This means that an assault cannot be accidental. It must be shown that the offender intended the actions even if they did not intend a particular harm, their dangerous act can be enough to demonstrate a general intent. An intent to scare or frighten another person can also be enough to establish assault charges.
Assault and battery have generally been treated as separate, but related, crimes. However, in some states the definition for both of these crimes has changed and have now been combined into a single offense. An experienced criminal attorney will be able to provide state-specific definitions for assault and battery, and be able to assist you with legal defenses and penalties.
If you’ve been arrested on an assault or battery charge and you would like to know the legal defenses available to you, we invite you to contact our attorneys at Gurovich, Berk & Associates. We are experienced in dealing with various criminal cases and would be able to advise you on all your defense options.
We welcome your call today at (213) 385-1555 to arrange an initial consultation.