Did you know that assault is one of the most common violent criminal offenses in the US? If you've been charged with assault and battery, you're not alone. In 2017, over 800,000 aggravated assaults were reported to the police.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of facing assault and battery charges, you'll want to understand the possible defenses you might use and the potential penalties.
Read on to learn more about assault and battery in South Carolina.
Assault and Battery in South Carolina: Definitions and Degrees
In South Carolina, assault and battery are both prosecuted under the same laws (despite being considered two different criminal acts in the past). There are, however, different degrees of assault and battery. These include:
- assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature (which is the most serious)
- assault and battery in the first degree
- assault and battery in the second degree
- assault and battery in the third degree
Assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and assault and battery in the first degree are both felonies. Assault and battery in the second and third degrees are misdemeanors.
The main difference between the different degrees of assault and battery is the amount of bodily harm caused to the victim.
For example, to be charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, the offender must have caused great bodily injury to another person or accomplish the act by means likely to cause great bodily injury.
Defending Yourself Against Assault and Battery Charges
If you have been charged with assault and battery in any degree, it is wise to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. They know the court process inside and out and can advise you on the best course of action.
You may want to plead not guilty and take the case to trial or you may want to accept a plea bargain and plead guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence. You may also want to plead guilty but defend your actions.
If you decide on the latter, your attorney can advise you on which defense may be the most effective for you. Here are some of the potential options:
Justifying assault and battery with a self-defense argument is one of the most common criminal defenses. To successfully argue self-defense, you typically have to prove that there was a threat of harm against you, that you reasonably perceived yourself to be in danger, that you didn't provoke the potential harm, and that there was no other option (such as retreating or escaping).
Some other things to remember about self-defense is that the amount of force used must be reasonable and in proportion to the threat of harm.
Also, even if all of the elements of self-defense are met, you may still be convicted if your strength and stature greatly exceed the victim's (for example, due to their age or size).
Defense of Others
Like self-defense, if you are going to use defense of others as your assault and battery defense, you'll need to show that the other person was in harm's way, was fearful, and that there was nothing else that you could have done (such as helping the other person leave the situation).
Defense of Property
In South Carolina, if your property is threatened, you are permitted to use force (an in some situations, deadly force) to protect it.
As long as you can show that you are in a place where you have a right to be, that you are not engaged in unlawful activity, and that the use of force is necessary to prevent your own death, great bodily injury, or the commission of a violent crime, you can use force. This is known as the castle doctrine.
If a victim consents to the touching, then you could use that as a defense if you are charged with assault and battery. In a boxing match, for example, by participating in it, the victim has implied that they consent to any physical contact.
The same applies to other contact sports. By willingly participating in a sport, you are consenting to any contact that might arise during the course of the game or match.
Performance of Duty/Authority
Lastly, if you are using physical force in the course of your job, such as law enforcement, the performance of duty or authority could be a plausible defense. Correctional officers or others who are forced to restrain people for their safety and the safety of others can also use this defense.
If you are unsuccessful in your defense, you are facing penalties that range from time in prison to fines. The penalties depend on the degree of assault and battery that you are convicted of.
Assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature can result in a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Assault and battery of the first degree can result in imprisonment of up to 10 years. Remember that these two crimes are felonies, which means they carry a tougher sentence.
Assault and battery of the second degree, which is a misdemeanor, can result in a prison sentence of up to 3 years and a fine of up to $2,500. Assault and battery of the third degree, which is also a misdemeanor, can result in up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
Beating Your Assault and Battery Charges
With the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney, it is possible to fight your charges and win, using one of the defenses detailed here. If you or someone you know has been charged with assault and battery, your first step should be to contact an attorney.
Contact us immediately to discuss your case. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to take your call.