In South Carolina, as in many jurisdictions, the terms assault and battery are often used interchangeably in everyday language. However, in the legal context, they have distinct definitions and implications. This article will delve into the specifics of these two offenses under South Carolina law.
If you are arrested for assault or battery, don’t wait to contact a Greenville criminal defense lawyer at Boatwright Legal.
Assault vs. Battery in South Carolina
Assault is defined as the act of intentionally causing fear of imminent bodily harm to another person. It’s important to note that physical contact is not necessary for an act to be considered assault. The threat of harm can constitute an assault.
South Carolina law defines battery as intentionally touching another person without their consent or intentionally causing bodily harm to another person. Unlike assault, battery involves actual physical contact.
The key difference is physical contact. Assault can occur even if there is no physical contact, as long as there is an intentional act that causes fear of imminent harm. Battery, however, requires actual physical contact or harm.
Defenses to Assault and Battery Charges
Several defenses can be used in response to assault charges in South Carolina. These include self-defense, defense of others, and defense of property. However, the relevance of these defenses depends on the specific circumstances of each case.
Common defenses to battery charges include self-defense, protecting your property, consent, mistaken identity, involuntary intoxication, duress, and even false accusations. However, each case is unique, and the strength of these defenses depends on the specific facts and circumstances.
Consulting with a qualified Greenville criminal defense attorney is crucial to determine the most applicable defense for your situation and build a strong case.
Degrees of Assault and Battery
South Carolina law categorizes assault and battery into three degrees based on the severity of the intended harm.
Understanding the nuances of each degree of assault and battery in South Carolina is crucial for anyone navigating these legal charges or concerned about their rights.
Assault and Battery in the First Degree
- Inflicting Great Bodily Injury: This involves causing serious and lasting harm, as defined by the law. Examples include fractures requiring surgery, permanent disfigurement, organ damage, or loss of consciousness for extended periods.
- Attempted Great Bodily Injury: Although no actual injury occurs, the attempt alone with the present ability to cause severe harm qualifies as this degree. This could involve pointing a loaded gun at someone or attempting to strangle them.
- Sexual Assault: Any non-consensual sexual contact above or below clothing, with lewd and lascivious intent, constitutes assault and battery in the first degree. This includes various forms of forced sexual touching.
- Violent Aggravating Factors: The offense is further elevated if committed during another felony, such as robbery, kidnapping, or burglary.
Assault and Battery in the Second Degree
- Moderate Bodily Injury: This includes harm that is significant but not as severe as great bodily injury. Examples include broken bones, concussions, deep cuts requiring stitches, or temporary loss of sight or hearing.
- Attempted Moderate Bodily Injury: Similar to the first degree, attempting to cause moderate harm with the present ability to do so falls under this classification. This could involve throwing a heavy object at someone or swinging a closed fist with the intent to strike them in the face.
- Non-Consensual Touching of Private Parts: Any unwanted touching of an individual’s private areas, even without sexual intent, qualifies as assault and battery in the second degree.
- Violent Aggravating Factors: Certain situations can elevate the offense, such as committing it against a pregnant woman or someone over the age of 65.
Assault and Battery in the Third Degree
- Unlawful Touching: This encompasses any unwanted physical contact, even seemingly minor, such as grabbing, pushing, shoving, or spitting on someone.
- Threat of Violence: Creating a reasonable fear of imminent harm through verbal or nonverbal threats, even if no physical contact occurs, can result in this charge. Examples include brandishing a weapon, making violent gestures, or yelling threats of physical harm.
- Attempted Unlawful Touching: Attempting to touch someone unlawfully with the ability to do so, but being stopped before contact is made, can still qualify as assault and battery in the third degree.
Penalties for Assault and Battery in South Carolina
The legal consequences for assault in South Carolina vary depending on the degree of the assault.
- First-degree assault is a felony with a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.
- Second-degree assault will be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2500, up to 3 years in prison, or both.
- Third-degree assault and battery is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500, up to 30 days behind bars, or both.
- Assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature is a lesser-included offense of attempted murder, as defined in Section 16-3-29.
Don’t Wait to Call a Greenville Criminal Defense Attorney!
Understanding the legal definitions and implications of assault and battery in South Carolina law can be complicated. While these terms are often used interchangeably in everyday language, they are different criminal offenses.
If you find yourself facing either of these charges, you need a skilled Greenville criminal defense lawyer on your side to protect your rights. Contact Boatwright Legal at 864-745-9758 for a free case evaluation.