Assault Examples and Possible Legal Consequences
Are you or a family member facing assault charges? You are not alone. In 2022, there were over one million arrests for assault across the country. With the complexities of the criminal justice system and the far-reaching consequences of an assault charge, you are likely feeling overwhelmed and full of questions. What exactly is assault? Can I go to jail for assault?
Through this guide, New Mexico Criminal Law Offices defines assault, explores the various types of the offense, and discusses the potential penalties of an assault charge.
What Is Assault?
Assault is defined as attempting or threatening to cause physical harm or offensive contact to another person with the apparent ability and intent to carry out the action. Physical contact is not always required; a victim’s fear of imminent harm from the defendant’s actions is sufficient. Imagine swinging at someone’s face but missing; you could still be charged with assault because you intended to harm them and make them fear for their safety.
Assault has many forms. Some examples of assault are:
- Trying to spit on someone else;
- Mimicking the action of beating, punching, or kicking someone;
- Pointing a pistol at someone, whether loaded or not; and
- Displaying a weapon, whether deadly or non-deadly, in a way that suggests someone will be hit or injured by it.
Assault can also involve aggressively approaching someone while making explicit threats or using frightening language. It can also be considered assault to physically grab someone’s arm and detain them against their will.
What Are the Different Types of Assault?
Most states recognize six common types of assault charges. These include:
- Simple assault. The least serious type of assault, involving a minor injury or a limited threat of violence. For example, slapping someone or threatening to punch them may constitute simple assault.
- Aggravated assault. This is a more serious form of assault involving a higher degree of injury or a more significant threat of violence. For example, stabbing someone or threatening to shoot them may constitute aggravated assault.
- Assault with a deadly weapon. This is a type of aggravated assault that involves using or displaying a weapon that is capable of causing death or serious bodily harm. For example, hitting someone with a baseball bat or pointing a gun at them may constitute assault with a deadly weapon.
- Sexual assault. This form of assault involves unwanted sexual contact or attempted sexual contact without consent. For example, groping someone or attempting to rape them may constitute sexual assault.
- Vehicular assault. This involves using a vehicle as a weapon to cause harm or endanger another person. For example, running someone over or driving recklessly near them may constitute vehicular assault.
- Felony assault. This applies to an assault that results in serious bodily injury, permanent disability, disfigurement, or death of another person. For example, breaking someone’s bones or causing brain damage may constitute felony assault.
Some states also acknowledge domestic assault. This is a specific category of assault that occurs within family, marital, or intimate relationships. Physically assaulting a partner or child, for example, may be considered domestic violence.
What Are the Potential Consequences of an Assault Charge?
The specifics of the case, the state’s laws, your criminal history, and the type and severity of the assault charge all play a role in the possible outcomes. The more serious the charge, the harsher the punishment. Among the potential consequences of assault are:
- Fines ranging from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars depending on the charge and the state laws;
- Probation requiring you to comply with court-imposed rules and conditions, such as reporting to a probation officer, performing community service, avoiding contact with the victim, and refraining from committing new crimes;
- Incarceration ranging from a few days to several years, depending on the charge and the state laws; and
- A criminal record affecting your future opportunities and rights, such as employment, education, housing, voting, and gun ownership.
Some states offer alternative sentencing options instead of jail time for assault, such as diversion programs, anger management classes, counseling, or rehabilitation programs. Completing these programs may reduce or dismiss your charges, avoiding the long-term consequences of a criminal record.
How Can You Defend Yourself Against Assault Charges?
Because of the complexity of the legal system, you shouldn’t attempt to handle assault accusations on your own. You need a skilled criminal defense lawyer to defend your interests and rights. An experienced and knowledgeable attorney can help you by:
- Reviewing the evidence and challenging its validity or reliability,
- Negotiating with the prosecutor for a reduced charge or sentence,
- Presenting legal defenses that may apply to your case, and
- Representing you at trial and advocating for your innocence.
Having competent legal representation ensures that your rights are protected throughout the legal process, increasing your chances of a successful outcome in your case.
Legal Defenses Against Assault
Some possible legal defenses to assault charges that your lawyer may use include:
- Self-defense and defense of others—you acted reasonably to protect yourself or someone else from imminent harm.
- Defense of property—you acted reasonably to protect your property from imminent harm.
- Consent—the victim consented to the contact or the risk of contact.
- Lack of intent—you did not intend to cause harm or fear of harm.
- Lack of ability—you could not carry out the threat.
- Mistake of fact—you acted under a reasonable but mistaken belief that justified your conduct.
- Alibi—you were not present at the scene of the alleged assault.
Your lawyer will determine the best defense for your case, considering the specific circumstances and evidence available.
Contact New Mexico Criminal Law Offices Today
Building a solid defense requires understanding the circumstances and elements of each allegation, whether it is simple assault or aggravated assault. At New Mexico Criminal Law Offices, we have over 25 years of experience with assault and other criminal cases. You can trust that our team of knowledgeable attorneys will be there every step of the way to explain the legal process, address your concerns, and defend your rights. We fight for you with your best interests in mind. Don’t face assault charges alone; contact us now for a free consultation and case evaluation.