Assault and battery are criminal charges leveled against an individual accused of a violent offense against another. Whether assault and battery charges are labeled as misdemeanors or felonies depends upon the severity of the violent act involved. In most cases, the dividing line between misdemeanor and felony is whether serious bodily harm resulted from the attack.
The Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony
When a crime is labeled as a misdemeanor, it comes with penalties that are much less severe than those of a felony. When convicted of a misdemeanor, an individual will generally face less than a year in jail and sometimes no jail time at all. They also may be required to attend rehabilitation, participate in community service, face probation, and pay fines.
When convicted of a felony, on the other hand, you won’t go to jail. Instead, you will wind up in prison. Jails are typically for short-term stays and are filled with people who have committed minor offenses or are awaiting trial. Prisons are for people facing more serious charges and have long-term residents.
The legal procedure involved in prosecuting a misdemeanor is different from that used for prosecuting a felony as well. Misdemeanor cases are tried by a judge. Your fate for a felony charge, on the other hand, is decided by a jury trial.
Definition of Assault and Battery
Assault and battery are two separate charges that are often grouped together due to the fact that an assault is quite frequently followed by a battery. The legal definitions of assault and battery are quite clear.
Assault is the attempt of one individual to use physical force against another with the intention of causing bodily harm. Assault can also be charged when threats are made, with the intent of making a person fear that bodily harm is imminent. Assault charges can be brought whether they actually attempt to injure the victim or not.
Battery is the act of actually using physical force to cause harm.
The two charges are often brought together but can be separate. Assault does regularly occur without battery. An example would be someone yelling and threatening and trying to attack another individual but being held back by others. Battery without assault is much rarer but still occurs occasionally. An example would be someone approaching another person from behind and stabbing them in the back.
Crossing the Line
Generally, the line between assault and battery being charged as a misdemeanor and a felony has to do with the amount of harm caused to the victim. When a battery is committed without a weapon and does not result in serious bodily injury, the crime is typically charged as a misdemeanor. An example of a misdemeanor battery charge would be someone wrestling another person to the ground.
When serious bodily harm does occur, the battery will be charged as a felony. However, the class of felony will depend on other factors. If no weapon was used, it will likely be a Class C felony, which carries milder charges. However, if a deadly weapon was used, it is more likely to be classified as a Class B or Class A felony.
If the assault and battery were of a sexual nature, then the crime will likely be charged as a Class A felony.
Hiring Legal Representation
When facing any sort of criminal charges, it is vitally important that you hire a qualified criminal defense attorney to defend you. Even as misdemeanor charges, assault, and battery are serious allegations that will likely result in jail time if you are convicted. A criminal defense attorney quite probably knows the law a lot better than you do and will have a lot higher chance of keeping you out of jail or prison.
The worst thing you can do for your case if being tried for a crime is to attempt to represent yourself. Even experienced lawyers hire other lawyers to represent them in court should they find themselves in that position. Being convicted of a criminal offense will have drastic consequences, not just for the time that you would spend in jail or prison, but for your entire life afterward.
Even if a defense attorney is unable to get you a verdict of not guilty, they may be able to negotiate a lesser charge. Getting a felony charge of assault and battery dropped down to a misdemeanor is going to be a significant improvement as far as long-term consequences go.