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What Are Assault Charges?

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Assault charges are criminal charges that are brought against a person who commits assault. In the United States, criminal law is a state matter. This means each state has its own criminal code and statutes. While there is much overlap among states, and many states follow a uniform code of criminal law called the Model Penal Code, the exact requirements for assault charges still vary slightly by state.

Definition of Assault Charges

In some states, you can face assault charges if you threaten to harm another person, intend to harm them or cause them fear, and the person is afraid of this impending harm. This means that if you intentionally make a threat that a reasonable person would be afraid of, assault charges can be brought against you. Words may not be enough to strike fear in a reasonable person; in some states some type of aggressive or hostile action must accompany the words.

In other states, you have to actually do an action that is intended to cause harm. It does not matter if you are successful at causing the harm or not. Trying to intentionally touch someone in a hostile matter who does not want to be touched can be sufficient to make you susceptible to assault charges.

Still other states require you to actually cause some type of harm. The harm does not have to befall your intended victim either. If you do an aggressive action that is intended to cause harm, or that is so reckless it is almost guaranteed to cause some type of harm, assault charges can be brought against you. This is true even if the victim is an innocent bystander who got hurt while you were trying to harm another.

Assault charges can be felony charges or misdemeanor charges depending on the type of threat and your actions. If you threaten someone with a gun or other deadly weapon, you are susceptible to more serious charges and potentially face more serious penalties. In some jurisdictions, this more serious form of assault is called "aggravated assault," while in other's it is simply considered "felony assault" and does not have a separate legal name.

What Happens if You Are Charged With Assault

Assault charges are criminal charges. A warrant will be issued for your arrest if the police have sufficient evidence for a prosecutor to convince a judge that you are guilty of assault. You can also be arrested without a warrant if the police catch you in the act of assaulting someone.

You will be handcuffed, read your Miranda rights, and taken to the police station if you are charged with assault. You will be booked and placed in jail, pending an arraignment. At your arraignment, you can either plead guilty and be sentenced or plead not guilty and either go back to jail or be released on bail pending your trial, depending on the circumstances of the assault.

Assault charges can carry serious penalties. In some cases, you can spend many years in prison for assaulting someone. Because of the nature of the penalties, if you are charged with assault, you should consult with a criminal attorney. If you cannot afford to hire your own assault attorney, the court will provide one for you to help you cope with the assault charges.

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