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What is Misdemeanor Assault?

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Misdemeanor assault, also referred to as a simple assault, generally means an act of violence against another person but can actually include any physical contact made without consent. Even a threat of bodily harm made with an apparent ability to cause the harm is considered assault. The threat must cause a reasonable fear of injury, otherwise there is no assault. The victim of the assault is also considered. An adult making a threat against a child can be considered an assault because the child will incur a fear of injury, although the exact same threat made against another adult might not.

Exceptions to the law exist to exclude contact that is considered part of normal social behavior. A misdemeanor is defined as any crime that punishable by no more than one year in jail and a fine, so a simple assault charge is generally not considered a serious crime.

In some jurisdictions, battery is the crime that deals with non-consensual contact, while assault is the overt act of inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm on another person. Under this interpretation, the act of throwing a punch at someone is assault, even if the punch does not land. If the punch does connect, then the crime becomes either battery or assault and battery.

Several enhancements to a misdemeanor assault or simple assault can elevate the crime to a more serious misdemeanor or even a felony. Aggravated assault is punished as a felony in all 50 states. A crime goes from misdemeanor assault to aggravated assault when the perpetrator intends to more than simply frighten the victim. Assault with an intent to rob or kill is considered an aggravated assault, as is assault with a deadly weapon. A person convicted of felony aggravated assault faces a minimum of one year in prison.

A misdemeanor assault or simple assault generally carries a penalty of up to six months in jail and/or a fine up to $1000. First offenses usually just involve a fine, probation and a mandatory diversion program, such as an anger management course. Successfully completing a probation and diversion sentence can sometimes get the conviction erased from a person’s record. Having a conviction, even a misdemeanor, can create difficulties in obtaining certain jobs or receiving and maintaining a professional license, so if faced with a misdemeanor assault charge or any other criminal charge, be sure to contact a good criminal defense attorney.

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