When defining violent charges, it can be hard to see where the lines cross from simple assault to assault to battery. It’s important to know the difference between the penalties for each and to know how to avoid charges that are more severe than necessary.
Simple assault describes instances that involve a minor injury and/or minor threat of violence at most. It is the most minor of assault and is usually charged as a misdemeanor. There are certain protected classes of people for which those who assault them are given harsher sentences. Members of this protected class often include police officers, mental health workers, social services workers, and disabled and elderly persons.
Aggravated assault describes instances in which serious harm is done or threatened the victim. It can result in serious injury and is especially dangerous with the use of a deadly weapon. Use of a deadly weapon opens up a separate case in some states and can lead to serious criminal charges including, but not limited to, jail time, fines, and/or community service. Aggravated assault is considered a felony offense with consequences of up to 20 years in prison. If the assault was against a protected class or used a deadly weapon, jail time and other penalties can be increased.
Sexual assault, as well as aggravated sexual assault, involves the threat and/or action of non-consensually engaging in sexual acts with a victim. They are usually defined as felony offenses, and consequences can range from one year to a lifetime in prison. Additional penalties often include court-ordered rehabilitation while in prison.
As with other forms of assault, penalties increase if the assault is committed against a protected class, a minor, or use of a deadly weapon occurs.
The difference between battery and assault has become less relevant over the years, with many charges being labeled as “assault and battery,” as opposed to either one individually. Semantically, where assault covers the threats of violence, battery covers the followthrough and actual physical violence.
Dropping Rates/Rising Rates
Violent crime charges are serious and varied. Penalties change drastically when factors such as the aggressor and/or the victim being a minor come into play, whether it is a recurring charge, and the degree of the damages done. Fortunately, violent crime in the United States has seen a drastic drop since its peak in the early 90s, with a drop from 758 violent crime cases per 100,000 people in 1991 to just 368 cases per 100,000 people in 2018.
While violent crime rates as a category are dropping, unfortunately, some cases of assaults are on the rise, largely sexual assault. Some of this is due to the FBI updating its outdated definition of rape to focus on consent rather than force, therefore classifying more crimes as rape, but there does seem to be a considerable upward trend since 2013. According to the National Criminal Victimization Survey, estimated rapes (beyond just what is reported) have drastically increased since 2013.
No matter what the trends say, violent crime can ruin a person’s life completely. Whether you have been unfairly punished or were a victim of a violent crime, it is important that you know how to put your experience in legal terms.