Assault and Battery Penalties and Sentencing
Assault and battery crimes can be caused harm or the threat of harm. The penalties and sentences for an assault and/or battery conviction can vary widely depending on the law of the state where the offense was committed, as well as the circumstances of each case. Punishments can range anywhere from fines to imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense and the offender's criminal history.
Individuals who are first-time offenders may receive more leniency, while those who have an extensive criminal record or repeated instances of violent conduct may receive stiffer assault and battery penalties.
Continue on to learn more about assault and battery sentencing and penalties.
What is Assault and Battery?
Typically, an assault involves threats of bodily harm. It doesn't require actual contact, but the person threatened has to believe it is a credible threat. The crime of battery usually involves intentional and unwanted physical contact, even if the intent wasn't to actually cause harm.
A charge of "assault and battery" combined usually refers to both threats of bodily harm and the actual following through with physical contact. While most states treat assault and battery as two separate crimes, not all states do. For instance, Texas makes no distinction between the two.
Penalties for an Assault Charge
Whether the states considered it a separate crime from battery or not, all states and the federal government have laws that make assault a crime. The seriousness of the threat and surrounding circumstances will make the assault charge a felony or a misdemeanor. For instance, federal law divides assault into a felony punishable by 10 years imprisonment and a misdemeanor punishable by one-year imprisonment.
Similarly, the states divide assault into misdemeanors and felonies. A misdemeanor carries a potential jail term of less than one year. Felonies are subject to imprisonment for more than twelve months.
The penalties for assault are very dependent on the circumstances of the crime. An assault with no weapon involved and no serious injury will most likely be treated as a misdemeanor. Some states will even treat an assault as an infraction with just a fine or jail time under thirty days if the injury was minimal and there was no weapon. However, penalties escalate rapidly if weapons are involved. For instance, a first-degree assault (using a deadly weapon and serious injury) in New York has a prison term of up to 25 years and a fine of up to $5,000.
Penalties for a Battery Charge
Just like assault, a battery can be considered a misdemeanor or a felony. The distinction between the two classifications depends on the seriousness of the injury, whether a weapon was used, and the person who was injured. State and federal laws provide for more serious punishments when the victim is a peace officer, fireman, or a member of the legislature, executive, or judicial branch of government.
The penalties for battery range from misdemeanor charges with less than 30 days in jail to substantial prison terms that include life in prison. States usually describe the possible range of sentences in their laws. For example, battery in Texas is subject to the following sentencing schedule:
- Class C misdemeanor: Fine of up to $500
- Class B misdemeanor: Up to 180 days in jail, fine of up to $2,000
- Class A misdemeanor: Up to 1 year in jail, fine of up to $4,000
- Third-degree felony: Up to 10 years in prison, fine of up to $10,000
- Second-degree felony: Between 2 to 20 years in prison, fine of up to $10,000
- First-degree felony: Between 5 years to life in prison, plus a fine
The potential penalties rise dramatically for aggravated assault because it constitutes a felony in all states. The crime of assault and/or battery becomes an aggravated assault/battery based on whether:
- A deadly weapon was used;
- The status of the victim is a protected class;
- The perpetrator's intent; or
- The seriousness of the injury.
The type of weapon used makes a difference in the assault and battery penalties that will be assessed. While states like Michigan do not single out particular weapons for different treatment, California has specified different punishments for different types of weapons. For example:
- Assault with a caustic chemical is punishable by two, three, or four years in prison;
- The use of deadly weapons can be punished as a misdemeanor or a felony (two, three, or four years in prison);
- Assaults with a machine gun are punishable by four, eight, or twelve years in prison; and
- Semiautomatic firearm assaults are punishable by three, six, or nine years.
Regardless of the type of weapon used, the status of the victim matters for the imposition of a sentence or crime. Many states, such as Colorado, increase the punishment for an assault or battery that's committed on a police officer or other type of public servants such as a paramedic, firefighter, or teacher.
Similarly, laws may carry harsher penalties for assaults or batteries committed against family members or others living with the offender, or such crimes may be prosecuted under domestic abuse or violence laws.
More Questions About Assault and Battery Penalties and Sentencing? Ask an Attorney
Assault and battery are serious offenses. Sentencing varies depending on the state statutes, the facts of a given case, and a number of other factors. If you're facing assault and battery charges, a qualified legal counsel can help you identify potential defenses and devise a plan to minimize the consequences of your case.
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