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The Basics of Criminal Assault

Criminal assault is generally defined as an act that threatens someone with physical harm. Assault can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony crime.

What is Criminal Assault?

State legislatures and Congress define what constitutes crimes, including assault. This means that what may constitute assault in one state may be different from what constitutes assault in another state. If you would like to know the specific definition of criminal assault in your state, you should consult a criminal defense law firm in your area.

Assault can occur even if no one is actually physically harmed. Rather, assault occurs when someone threatens harm. This threat of harm must be intentional.

Examples of assault include swinging a baseball bat at someone but not hitting them, waving your fist at someone without making contact, and pointing a gun, loaded or not, at someone, while they are aware that you are pointing a gun at them.

There are some acts that may cause someone to feel threatened that do not constitute criminal assault. For example, telling someone that you plan on causing him or her harm at a later time is not assault. Neither is pointing a gun at someone who is not aware that a gun is being pointed at him or her.

Aggravated assault is a specific type of assault that occurs when someone commits assault and actually intends to cause serious bodily harm or succeeds in causing serious bodily harm. Aggravated assault is usually committed with a dangerous weapon.

Assault & Battery

Assault is often accompanied by battery. Battery occurs when someone recklessly or purposefully causes someone bodily harm. Usually if battery is committed, assault has been committed as well. However, committing assault does not necessarily mean battery has been committed.

Assault: Felony or Misdemeanor?

Assault can be classified as either a felony or misdemeanor depending on the severity of the crime and the laws in the state.

A misdemeanor is a crime classification reserved for lesser crimes. These crimes usually entail prison sentences of less than a year, smaller fines, community service, or a combination of any of these. A felony is a crime classification reserved for more serious crimes. These usually entail prison sentences of more than a year, heftier fines, or a combination of both.

If the assault is considered minor, a person may be charged with a misdemeanor. However, if the incident of assault involves the use of a dangerous weapon, the assault will likely be considered a felony.

Defenses to Criminal Assault

There are a number of defenses available to those who are charged with criminal assault to justify their actions. The best defense to use will depend on the specific circumstances of the assault.

In general, a person is allowed to threaten harm or use force to defend oneself or another person from physical harm. In some circumstances, a person can even threaten harm or use force to defend his or her property.

If you have been charged with assault, you will want to discuss your defenses and case strategy with your criminal defense lawyer.