Assault crimes are separated into various degrees of severity, some of which are misdemeanors and some of which are serious felonies. Even the most minor assault conviction creates a criminal record that may lead to problems far into the future. With the long-term ramifications in mind, it could be wise to retain legal counsel following an assault charge.

If you are charged with assault or battery, an experienced Charleston assault lawyer could explain the potential consequences and examine your options. A criminal defense attorney may be your best resource for building a strong defense and avoiding significant penalties.

Degrees of Assault

South Carolina state law describes several assault and battery offenses, but it does not actually define the terms “assault” or “battery.” Generally, battery occurs when someone makes unwelcome contact with the body of another, such as by hitting or kicking them.

An assault was traditionally an act that put someone in fear of imminent contact or harm, but many jurisdictions now use the term to refer simply to actual contact that is offensive or harmful. A knowledgeable Charleston assault attorney could explain how conduct in a certain situation may be defined as assault or battery.

Among the assault crimes penalized in Charleston are:

  • Assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature
  • Assault and battery in the first degree
  • Assault and battery in the second degree
  • Assault and battery in the third degree
  • Assault of a law officer engaged in serving process

Of these listed offenses, assault and battery in the second and third degree are misdemeanors, while the remainder are felonies.

Misdemeanor Assault

Assault and battery in the second and third degrees are the least serious assault crimes. According to South Carolina Code of Laws §16-3-600, third-degree assault occurs when someone unlawfully injures or attempts to injure another person while having the present ability to inflict injury. Anyone found guilty of this offense may be fined up to $500 and imprisoned for up to 30 days.

The circumstances that constitute second-degree assault and battery are the same as second-degree assault and battery, but they only apply if the assault causes a moderate bodily injury or could have caused a moderate bodily injury. Also, if the assault and battery involves nonconsensual touching of another person’s private parts, even though clothing, the act may be treated as second-degree assault.

The maximum penalties for second-degree assault include imprisonment for up to three years and a fine of up to $2,500. A skilled assault lawyer in Charleston could work to demonstrate that circumstances do not justify aggravating an offense from a third-degree level to second-degree level.

Felony Assault

Assault and battery in the first degree, as well as high and aggravated assault and assault on an officer serving process, are all treated as felony offenses. Felony assault may carry a penalty of up to 10 to 20 years in prison.

An assault and battery are considered “high and aggravated” if the act causes great bodily injury or was likely to cause death or great bodily harm. High and aggravated assault is a lesser-included offense of attempted murder.

First-degree assault and battery occurs when one person unlawfully injures another in a situation that either involved nonconsensual sexual touching or commission of a crime such as a robbery. An individual may also commit first-degree assault and battery by attempting to injure another—with the ability to do so—by means likely to result in death.

Consult a Dedicated Charleston Assault Attorney

A conviction for assault, even at a misdemeanor level, could interfere with employment opportunities and damage your reputation for years to come. Assault is frequently charged in domestic violence situations, which often involve complicating factors such as protective orders. A skilled attorney could help you navigate the legal intricacies surrounding an assault charge.

If you are facing assault charges, a dedicated Charleston assault lawyer could provide guidance and representation right from the start. Call now to learn more about the various levels of assault crimes and how to protect your rights.