The legal definition of assault encompasses a wide variety of behaviors. Many defendants are surprised to learn that mere words or gestures can qualify as an assault, and become the basis of criminal charges. Some defendants are even more surprised to learn that an assault can be classified as a felony, and carry much more serious consequences than a misdemeanor assault. An experienced Georgia criminal defense attorney can help defendants protect their constitutional rights in a criminal case for either type of assault charges.
First, it is important to understand the difference between assault and battery. The Georgia Code defines assault as attempting to commit a violent injury or placing another person in reasonable apprehension of a violent injury. Thus words and gestures – even without attempts to commit violence – can constitute an assault. By contrast, the act of battery is defined in Section 16-5-23 as intentionally causing physical harm, or intentionally making physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature. Again, physical harm does not actually have to result in order for the perpetrator to be guilty of battery.
Simple Versus Aggravated Assault
Attempting to commit a violent injury, or placing another person in reasonable apprehension of a violent injury, is known as “simple assault”. This is a misdemeanor which does not carry the penalties of a felony (such as the loss of the right to vote or serve on a jury). Assault can, however, be a felony when there are aggravating factors present. This is known as “aggravated assault”. Aggravated assault is defined in Section 16-5-21 of the Georgia Code as an assault which is committed: (1) with intent to murder, to rape, or to rob; (2) with a deadly weapon or with any object, device, or instrument which is likely to result in serious bodily injury; or (3) by a person without legal justification by discharging a firearm from within a motor vehicle toward a person or persons. Aggravated assault is a felony which carries a prison sentence of between one and twenty years. It also carries many collateral consequences. In addition to the consequences of a criminal record and the loss of civil liberties, defendants can be ordered to pay fines and fees or attend anger management courses. Assault charges may also result in a restraining order. Many defendants find that their employment or professional licensure can also be affected by the outcome of criminal assault charges.
Protect Your Legal Rights With the Advice of an Experienced Defense Attorney
Attorney Jacob Stidham is an experienced white collar defense lawyer who has handled cases across Georgia. He represents defendants throughout Georgia, including Buford, Suwanee, Gainesville, and Flowery Branch. Call 678-889-7953 today to schedule a consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney. The fines, fees, jail time, criminal record, and other consequences of an assault conviction can haunt a defendant for years to come. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help protect defendants’ constitutional rights, negotiate plea agreements which mitigate the consequences of an assault conviction, and present evidence which supports a more favorable outcome at sentencing.