Causing a violent altercation with another person is a crime, with some offenses carrying harsher penalties than others. In some circumstances, the individual does not need to inflict the victim with actual harm or physical injury for it to be regarded as illegal. Instead, the mere threat of committing a violent act is considered a crime. Alternatively, even if an individual never touched another person, they can be jailed for attempting to harm them. Both of these are examples of simple assault under the law.
For lawyers working on these matters, we then go over a first-time simple assault sentence, charge, and defense.
What Is the Procedure for a First-Time Simple Assault Charge?
The criminal process for a charge such as a first-time simple assault has several steps. Each of these steps is explained here, along with how an expert criminal defense lawyer can assist you with your case at each stage.
If the police physically watched you conduct the offense or have grounds to believe you did, they may be able to arrest you on the scene for a first-time simple assault charge. In other circumstances, before making an arrest, the police will conduct an investigation into an alleged offense. Typically, this investigation will include acquiring tangible evidence of the claimed crime as well as questioning prospective witnesses and suspects.
If you are not arrested on the spot but police believe they have enough evidence to charge you with the crime following an investigation, they will go before a court and get an arrest warrant. If the judge grants the warrant, the officers will arrest you. They will take you to the police station for the booking process. The booking process includes fingerprinting, photographing, and collecting your biographical information. You will then be held in the station’s holding cell or at the local jail until your preliminary arraignment and bond hearing, which will take place within 72 hours but frequently sooner.
#2. Bail Hearing and Preliminary Arrest
A preliminary arraignment is when you formally appear before a court after being arrested to hear the allegations against you. As previously stated, this hearing must take place within 72 hours of your arrest. A bail hearing will take place at the same time, and the judge will decide whether you will be released on your own recognizance (without bond), kept until you can pay bail, or held with no bail.
An experienced bail hearing lawyer can help you avoid detention during the criminal process by advocating on your behalf for you to be released on your own recognizance or for a reasonable sum of the bond. The nature of the crime you are charged with, your criminal history, your financial and work situation, and your ties to the community are all factors considered by the judge when imposing bail.
If your assault case includes domestic violence, which means violence allegedly perpetrated against a partner, former partner, cohabitant, or anyone else who meets the state’s definition of a domestic violence victim, you will almost certainly be awarded a temporary restraining order. This order forbids you from having any contact with the claimed victim. This means you must leave your home, at least temporarily. If this is your scenario, a lawyer can try to challenge the restraining order at a hearing for a permanent order to be granted, but you will most likely need to locate temporary accommodation for a short time.
#3. Preliminary Examination
The preliminary hearing is an optional event that the prosecutor will frequently request that you forego. The prosecutor introduces their evidence and witnesses in a “mini-trial session” where they must demonstrate that there is probable cause to proceed with the case. This is a high standard, and the prosecutor will typically prevail. However, you should not necessarily waive this hearing because it will allow the criminal defense attorney to obtain a preview of the prosecutor’s case, debate their evidence, and observe how their witnesses perform in court.
#4. Arraignment Formal
If no agreement is reached following the preliminary hearing, you will be formally arraigned before a court. Your charges will be read to you, and you will be given the option of pleading guilty or not guilty. An experienced criminal arraignment attorney would usually advise you to plead not guilty for the time being while they request discovery and file motions, such as a motion to suppress evidence obtained as a consequence of an illegal search and seizure.
#5. Plea Bargaining
A pre-trial conference may be called after the judge has resolved all motions and both parties have received all the discovery. The criminal defense attorney will negotiate with the prosecution before, during, and after this meeting to try to work out a plea deal to get your charges reduced or dismissed. If you have a first-time simple assault charge, you may be eligible for a pre-trial diversion program, which, if properly completed, will result in the dismissal of your charges. Other possible bargains include you pleading guilty to a lesser charge or the prosecutor offering to lobby for reduced penalties in exchange for you pleading guilty and relinquishing your right to a trial.
If you want to go to trial, the Commonwealth must prove all aspects of the simple assault allegations against you beyond a reasonable doubt. You can request a jury trial or a bench trial in which a judge will make the decision. An attorney can advise you on the appropriate sort of trial for your situation. At trial, both sides will present evidence and witnesses to prove their claims, and the jury must decide unanimously to convict you.
If you are found guilty of simple assault, you will be sentenced by a judge. Sometimes there are mandatory minimum penalties that the judge must impose, but in simple assault cases, especially if it is your first offense, the judge has a bit of leeway in deciding what kind of penalty you will face. A skilled lawyer can submit proof of your good character and reputation outside of this specific occurrence to argue for lesser penalties such as probation rather than jail time.
What Is “Simple Assault?”
You may have noticed that our guide is quite precise and concentrates on defending against a first-time simple assault charge. It is critical that you grasp what the term “simple assault” means (and does not mean).
This is a milder sort of assault, as the name implies. And there are only two ways you could be charged with this petty crime.
First, a simple assault could be a failed battery. This suggests you attempted to physically injure someone but were unsuccessful.
Second, a simple assault can include a threatening act. This indicates that you misled someone by your words or actions into believing you were about to conduct battery on their body.
In Texas, these types of assault are often classified as Class C misdemeanors. However, if you inadvertently hurt someone while performing this conduct, it is considered a more serious Class A misdemeanor.
While “simple” assault charges mean you didn’t actually damage someone, the state can nonetheless impose harsh penalties. It’s critical to understand the types of plea bargains that may be offered to you.
Simple Assault Elements
As with all criminal cases, certain components of simple assault must be shown in order to get a conviction. These are the following:
- Intention: The defendant must have threatened another person and caused fear of physical harm in that person. This can take the shape of gestures or words, but it must convey a sense of impending danger to the victim.
- Reasonable Fear: The victim must think that they are in grave danger and that the threat is genuine, directed at them, and likely to be carried out by the defendant. There is a widespread conviction that serious harm will almost certainly occur.
- Harm: The victim must suffer some type of harm. This can be physical, but it is not necessary. Instead, the emotional trauma caused by violent threats may be sufficient to warrant a conviction for simple assault.
Simple Assault Examples
Here are a few examples to help you understand what constitutes a simple assault:
- During a dispute, pushing someone away from you
- Threatening someone with violence verbally
- Intimidating a person by raising a fist and moving in a threatening manner
What is the Penalty for a First-Time Simple Assault Charge?
Simple assault cases are classed as misdemeanors in the United States and are handled at the state level. Misdemeanors in most states are punishable by fines of up to $1,000 and 6 to 12 months in county jail. However, the specific penalties for a first-time simple assault charge differ from state to state and are determined by each state’s sentencing statute or guidelines. As an example:
- New Jersey: According to N.J.S.T. 2C 12-1, most simple assaults are classified as disorderly person charges, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. If the offense happens during a mutual fight, the penalties are reduced to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Simple assaults in Arizona are classified as class II and III misdemeanors under A.R.S. 13-1203. Class III offenses are punishable by up to 30 days in prison and a $500 fine. It refers to threateningly touching someone. Physical touch is not required in class II situations. Instead, a simple gesture or verbal threat suffices. For class II simple assault, the penalty is up to four months in jail and a $750 fine.
Individuals convicted of simple assault in California face penalties of up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both.
How to Beat a First-Time Simple Assault Charge
As a defense attorney, you have various options for defending your client against simple assault allegations. The optimal technique is determined by the facts of the case and state laws. The following are some of the most prevalent possible arguments that a defense counsel can use in order to avoid a conviction and the repercussions of simple assault:
The most common tactic is to file a claim for self-defense. In certain cases, the lawyer will claim that the defendant was threatening or attempting to cause injury in order to protect himself or others from harm.
#2. Mistaken Identity:
Defense attorneys might present proof that the defendant’s identity was incorrect and that they are not accountable for the crime. Whether or not this is a viable argument is dependent on the evidence presented, the number of witnesses, if any, whether or not the crime was captured on camera, and other factors.
#3. Accidental Injury::
In order to achieve a simple assault conviction, a prosecutor must demonstrate intent. As a result, one of the defenses you can use is to claim that the incident happened by chance. In some circumstances, the putative victim may be entitled to pursue a civil action, but no criminal prosecution for simple assault is feasible.
If the victim consented to the assault, the defendant is not subject to simple assault penalties. Most people will not agree to be attacked, yet mutual combat falls under this category. As a result, in some places, if the defendant merely assaulted the victim because they were in a mutually confrontational position, the judge may dismiss all charges.
#5. High Five Defense:
In some circumstances, threatening physical contact was not intended to be menacing and had no criminal intent. Sports teams, for example, frequently push and touch one another after a game to celebrate. The move was deliberate and not an accident, yet it posed no significant threat. If this can be demonstrated, it’s possible that all simple assault charges might be withdrawn, and the defendant goes free.
Simple assault is defined as the threat or effort to injure another person. Despite the lack of physical contact, bodily injury, or battery, simple assault is nonetheless a serious felony and an act of violence. It is penalized in most states by 6 to 12 months in prison, up to $1,000 in fines, and a criminal record. As a result, hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is critical for navigating the court system and getting all charges dropped. A skilled criminal defense lawyer will do everything necessary to reduce the penalty upon conviction.