What Constitutes Felony Assault?
Referred to as assault and battery in many states, or just assault or battery, assault is one of the most basic of all crimes. The typical definition of an assault is an unwanted violation of a person’s space. That allows some states to charge a person for assault as long as there has been a realistic threat of some type of attack. Assault can be charged as a misdemeanor, and the line between misdemeanor and felony assault is important to understand because of the significant difference between being charged with a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor.
Misdemeanor vs. felony. If you have been charged with misdemeanor assault, or assault and battery, the punishment cannot be more than a year in jail, a fine, or both. With felony assault, however, the punishment can be much more severe. A felony is punishable with a sentence of at least a year in prison, and depending on the circumstances of the crime, potentially a much longer time in prison. Additionally, misdemeanor sentences take place in local or county facilities that are closer to home for defendants and often do not house the most serious classes of criminals. A felony sentence, on the other hand, is fulfilled in a state facility that often is much farther from home and is designed to house individuals convicted of very serious crimes.
Classes of assault. Generally speaking, there are three types of assault. Simple assault is a misdemeanor and is something that causes a victim to legitimately fear for their safety. Assault and battery is not just the fear of an assault but involves an actual physical injury. Aggravated assault, which is a felony, involves serious harm. A common example to differentiate misdemeanor and felony assault is the distinction between a slap to the face and a punch that causes a broken jaw and other injuries. The slap will be considered a misdemeanor in many jurisdictions while the punch will often be pursued as aggravated assault, which is a felony.
Elements of felony assault. In general, a prosecutor must prove the crime of felony assault involved intent – although extremely reckless behavior is sufficient in some states. There must be a weapon, and many states require that the weapon by a potentially deadly weapon. Finally, felony assault must include a physical injury. Few states will allow mental trauma or stress to qualify in a felony assault case. An experienced criminal defense attorney will try to show no intent was involved, perhaps because the physical contact was accidental. Self-defense also is a common defense to felony assault.
Sentencing for felony assault. This will vary from state to state. In California, the sentencing range is 16 months to 3 years, along with a fine of up to $2,000. Any aggravating circumstances – such as prior criminal convictions – can also enhance the standard penalty for felony assault. In Ohio, there is a distinction between second-degree assault and aggravated assault. Both are felonies, but aggravated assault recognizes a situation in which physical harm is committed in a sudden fit or rage. The punishment is 18 months to 6 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Second-degree assault is punishable by 2 to 8 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000. A criminal defense attorney can be invaluable because of his or her understanding of what types of plea agreements or deal prosecutors will accept in various cases.