Arrested For Assault In California?Like many people, you might think of an assault as a physical attack that results in injury. It may come as a surprise, then, to hear that the crime of assault happens without any physical contact. The separate crime of battery involves actual, offensive physical contact as an element of the crime, but an assault charge can happen completely independent of any actual touching.
The two crimes of assault and battery sometimes can be charged together. For example, if a verbal conflict involving threats of harm to another person led to a physical confrontation, the aggressor might face both charges. If the fight remains verbal, though, assault alone could be the charge.
Elements Of Assault
The crime of assault requires that a person made an illegal threat to cause injury or violent harm to someone else, and that they had the actual ability at that time to carry out the threat.
It may seem strange that you could be facing a criminal charge just for losing your temper and yelling that you’d like to hurt someone. However, you may have committed a crime just by telling someone that you will attack or injure them, if the person is in actual fear of harm because of the threats. If you have the ability to follow through with the threatened harm, and the other person feels justified in fearing for their safety, a prosecutor can potentially bring a criminal case against you.
The charge of assault with a deadly weapon might apply to your case if you threatened someone with a deadly weapon. Most obviously, this could be a weapon like a gun or a knife. However, even a car or other everyday object could be considered a “deadly weapon.” For example, you could be charged with assault with a deadly weapon if you threatened to hit someone with your car, or if you were making threats while holding a heavy frying pan or some other object that could possibly kill someone.
Higher Penalties Depending On Victims
The laws in California allow for more severe charges and penalties for assaults directed at certain types of people. Typically, these are people actively engaging in specific jobs. Some classes of people who have special protections against threats of assault include:
- Law enforcement and other public safety officers, like firefighters and code enforcement officers
- School administrators or employees
- Public transit providers
- Highway workers
- Sports officials, such as referees and coaches
Potential Defenses To Assault Charges
As with any criminal charge, an assault prosecution is not a simple matter. You might have valid defenses that can help you to avoid the worst-case scenario in court. For example, if you made the threats while acting to defend yourself, another person, or your home or vehicle, you might be able to avoid severe punishment for an alleged assault.
Alternatively, perhaps the situation was mutual. You and the other party may have consented to the activities that led to the assault, and you might not have been as much to blame as the prosecutor may try to make it seem. It’s crucial to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to understand your rights and to make the most of the defenses that are available to you in the case.
Simple assault is a misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Punishments can increase substantially for aggravated assault or assault against protected classes of people. For those crimes, you could be looking at a sentence of two to four years in prison if convicted.
In addition to facing criminal charges and penalties, you also could be sued by the victim in a civil case. In that separate case, you may have to pay money to the person you threatened.