Assault is the act of causing someone fear of being injured. This can happen in many different ways. The perpetrator may pretend to punch the victim, or attempted to punch the victim, or even just threatened to hit the victim. These are all various degrees of simple assault without battery.
Battery, however, is the follow-through by the perpetrator. If a perpetrator attempts to punch the victim, that is assault, but if they attempt to punch the victim and are successful, that is battery. For Battery, the offender must actually cause bodily harm.
In South Carolina, the charges for assault or assault and battery vary based on the degree of assault, the injury, and manner of battery. That means that an offender who threatens someone, with no intention of following through, is going to be charged with less than a person who causes serious, grave, and/or life-threatening bodily injury to their victim. There is a wide spectrum of possible events between these two extremes, and a wide range of charges, sentencing, and punishment for these crimes.
- Third-Degree assault and battery: up to 30 days in jail, up to $500 in fines
- Second-degree assault and battery: up to 3 years of , up to $2500 in fines
- First-degree assaults: up to 10 years of jail time
- Aggravated Assault: up to 20 years of jail time
Aggravated Assault is the top charge you can receive related to causing someone else bodily harm or having the intent to cause them bodily injury. Rape and attempted rape are both considered aggravated assault, as well as felony child abuse (aggravated assault of a child), or any assault performed that involves a dangerous weapon.
While aggravated assault and first-degree assaults are both felony charges, second and third-degree assaults are considered misdemeanor assaults in South Carolina.
What if Battery Does Not Cause Bodily Harm?
There are some instances in which assault and battery are not blatantly violent in nature or do not cause physical harm. Nonconsensual touching is a good example of this. While not all sexual assaults and unlawful touching cause bodily injury, they are always considered at least 2nd Degree Assault and Battery and can go up to aggravated assault depending on the circumstances.
Domestic violence situations, such as a husband holding his wife and/or children hostage while in possession of a weapon, are another type of assault and battery charges. Even if the husband releases his family members without causing them bodily injury, they were threatened with bodily harm, had enough reason to believe that harm could happen, and a deadly weapon was involved.
What if the Victim is in a Protected Class?
Protected classes are groups of people that the state of South Carolina has decided are more vulnerable to assault and/or battery, and are not as able to defend themselves or are connected to the assaulter. Those classes are the elders, the disabled, children, and domestic violence victims.
An assault on these classes of persons in South Carolina can come with higher sentencing, and in extreme cases can result in life in prison if the aggravated nature of the crime is extreme enough. Armed robbery, also known as aggravated robbery in South Carolina, is a type of violent crime that can result in life prison sentences.
What if You Have Been Incorrectly Charged?
There are several common reasons why your charges may be higher than they should be. A lack of reasonable doubt, your intent to commit the assault and battery, and whether or not you had a weapon can affect your assault charge. The goal of a violent crimes lawyer, or assault and battery lawyer, is to provide a solid legal defense to the alleged crime and have your charges dropped, or at the very least win you lesser charges.
The actual act of assault and battery isn't the only thing taken into consideration when prosecutors choose the degree of an assault charge. Malicious intent or a lack of intent is also taken into account. If you threaten to hit someone, and then hit them, then you committed assault and battery with intent.
But if you have no intention of committing assault and battery, and then commit assault and battery in anger, that is assault without intent. Assault without intent is a lesser charge than assault with intent. Prosecutors may accuse you of having intent when there was none, and a good criminal defense lawyer's job is to prove, in this case, that you did not have intent so that the degree of the crime is lessened.
Reasonable doubt is also a big factor. If your lawyer can provide evidence that there is reasonable doubt that you intended to or actually did cause another person bodily harm, they can get your assault charges lowered, or dropped completely.
If you feel as though you have been over-charged by the prosecutor, and you disagree with the degree of crime committed, or you feel as though your charges are entirely false, you need to contact a licensed criminal defense attorney in Greenville immediately.
What to do if You are Arrested for Assault and Battery
As any lawyer worth their salt will tell you, your case begins the moment you are read your rights and arrested. From that moment on, anything and everything you say and do is recorded and can be used against you in court. If you are being arrested for alleged assault and/or battery, you should exercise your right against self-incrimination and stay silent.
You are required to give them your basic information like your name, age, or your ID when asked, but you are not legally obligated to answer any questions, related to the case or not. If the police officers decide to ask you questions, you should politely inform them that you wish to remain silent and would like to speak to an attorney.
While you are not required to speak to the police officer, you are required to obey any and all lawful orders given to you by the arresting officers. Refusing to listen to lawful orders from the police can land you with additional charges, such as resisting arrest or assaulting an officer, and can provide behavioral evidence for the prosecution to use against you in court.
You should, however, remain alert and take in as much as you can. Any evidence you can remember or spot (such as cameras that may have picked up the incident or passerby's that may have witnessed the event) can help criminal defense attorneys build you a strong defense to fight your assault and battery charges.
Let Us Work for You
Touma & Fedalei LLP is a criminal defense law firm that specializes in assault and battery cases, and the best hands to place your case in. During your initial consultation, we will listen to your story, look at all the evidence you have gathered, and walk you through the entire process of being accused of and charged with assault and battery in South Carolina, and discuss valid defenses for your case, as well as your options in getting a lesser charge, your charges dropped, or whether or not it is best to ask for a plea deal.
At Touma & Fedalei we know that these criminal charges are extremely serious, and can affect the criminal records of the accused permanently, causing untold, permanent damage to your life. An arrest for assault doesn't have to be the beginning of the end, and you can trust us to make sure your charges are just a bump in the road, not a dead-end street.