What is Assault and Battery? Aggravating Factors and Variations

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 What Is Assault and Battery?

Depending on the jurisdiction, assault and battery may either be considered two separate crimes or a single criminal offense. Initially, assault and battery were classified as two separate crimes. That is until some states began merging them into a single criminal offense. This is where the common phrase of “assault and battery” originates from.

Today, however, the states are split on how they divide these crimes. As for the other half of the states that classify assault and battery as two different crimes, their definitions will generally appear as follows:

  • Assault: A defendant is said to have committed assault when they intentionally cause a victim to feel reasonable apprehension of imminent bodily harm.
  • Battery: A defendant is deemed to have committed battery when they use an unlawful application of force against another individual that results in offensive touching or bodily harm.

Therefore, if you are facing charges for assault and battery, then you may want to hire a local criminal defense attorney for further legal guidance. An attorney can provide advice on which definition is used in your state.

Knowing the definitions and how these crimes are charged in your state is very important since this will determine what charges may remain on your criminal record and the legal consequences you can face if you are convicted of committing assault and battery.

What Is Aggravated Assault and Battery?

The crime of aggravated assault and battery essentially carries the same meaning as a standard criminal assault and battery offense with one exception: certain conditions must be present during the commission of this crime.

These conditions are known as “aggravating factors”, which are usually elements that serve to increase the severity of the offense. Each state has its own laws which prescribe the types of conditions that will qualify as an aggravating factor.

For example, if a defendant uses a deadly weapon to commit assault and battery on another individual, then the deadly weapon would constitute the sort of factor that would convert the criminal charges into the aggravated version of this offense. Another example of a factor that would turn the crime of assault and battery into an aggravated offense is if the defendant injures a victim who is considered to be a vulnerable person in the eyes of the law, such as:

  • A child;
  • A pregnant woman; or
  • An elderly individual.

In addition, committing an assault and battery against an officer of the law is another condition that will transform the standard elements of this crime into an aggravated assault and battery offense. This is true even though a police officer is not considered to be a vulnerable person in the eyes of the law, but more likely has to do with the fact that they are enforcers of the law.

Lastly, it should be noted that the majority of states classify aggravated assault and battery as a felony offense, as opposed to a misdemeanor. Accordingly, a defendant who is convicted of committing aggravated assault and battery will most likely receive a punishment that is reserved for felony crimes, such as having to pay large criminal fines and/or serving a prison sentence of at least one full year and possibly longer.

What Is Assault and Battery With a Deadly Weapon?

As previously mentioned, when a defendant uses a deadly weapon to commit assault and battery against another person, they can be charged with the felony offense of aggravated assault and battery. Some examples of items that may meet a state’s legal definition of a “deadly weapon” include the following:

  • Guns and other firearms;
  • Explosive devices;
  • Poisons, toxins, or other hazardous materials;
  • Knives and similarly sharp instruments;
  • Different types of weapons, such as clubs, bats, nunchakus, or brass knuckles; and
  • In some instances, feet or hands if a defendant has had special training (e.g., serves in the military, is a professional boxer, or is a black belt in some form of martial arts).

As for states that divide assault and battery into two separate crimes, it might not matter whether a defendant used a fake or an actual weapon to intimidate their victim.

For example, suppose that a person reasonably believed that the defendant was pointing a real gun at them, but the gun was actually a toy. In such a case, the defendant can still be charged and convicted of aggravated assault if they deliberately intended to make it seem as if they were threatening the person with a real gun.

What Is Assault and Battery Against a Child, Woman, or Police Officer?

As previously mentioned, committing assault and battery against individuals with certain traits can raise the level of this crime to that of a felony offense, which is known as aggravated assault and battery. In such scenarios, the crime becomes more serious based on the type of victim who is harmed, rather than focusing on whether a deadly weapon or other instrument was used.

Again, if an assault and battery is committed against a child, a pregnant woman, an elderly person, or a police officer, it will automatically result in aggravated assault and battery charges. When a defendant is charged with committing aggravated assault and battery against any of these parties, they will likely face the kinds of punishments that are reserved for felony crimes like a prison sentence.

In addition, if any of the parties discussed within this section are also incapacitated, defenseless, or suffer extreme harm due to a defendant’s conduct, then this will also transform the crime into a felony offense. In fashioning an appropriate sentence, a court may consider certain factors, including:

  • The height of the victim;
  • The weight of the victim;
  • The victim’s gender; and
  • The separate abilities possessed by both the defendant and the victim to fight or defend themselves.

Do I Need a Lawyer for the Various Assault and Battery Charges?

Given how frequently the term “assault and battery” is used in popular culture, many people have been led to believe that assault and battery is a simple, straightforward charge. However, this would not be an accurate assumption. In fact, assault and battery cases can actually be quite complex. The laws surrounding assault and battery issues often vary by jurisdiction and their applications can change based on the facts of a single case.

Thus, if you are facing criminal charges for assault and battery, then it is strongly recommended that you hire a local criminal defense lawyer for further legal advice. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to perform legal research to see if there are any defenses available that you can raise against the charges in your case.

Your lawyer will also be able to assist you in navigating the criminal justice system and can provide legal representation in criminal court. In addition, your lawyer can apprise you of your legal rights as a criminal defendant under the laws in your state and can make sure that your interests are protected either in court or during negotiations with the prosecutor for a plea deal.

Finally, if your initial trial has already ended and you need to either appeal the decision or require representation at your sentencing hearing, your lawyer can assist you with these two legal procedures as well.


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