If you have been charged with assault or assault and battery, you are not alone. Assault and aggravated assault are the most common violent crimes committed in the state of Colorado.
But what does assault and battery mean? You often hear “assault and battery” charges lumped together, but each charge has a separate definition and applies to different situations. Moreover, each charge has serious consequences under Colorado law, so it is important to know the difference and what assault and battery convictions actually entail.
What’s the Difference between Assault and Battery?
Assault is the act of causing bodily injury or harm to another individual. Battery, legally referred to as “menacing,” merely involves the threat of violence against another person.
Aggravated assault is a more severe charge than assault, and usually involves a deadly weapon. If this assault happens against a spouse, family member, or between two people who have some other kind of “domestic” relationship, it is considered “domestic violence.”
What Are the Consequences for Assault and Battery?
Assault and battery can either be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. Since every case is different, the severity of the associated punishments is based on a number of different aggravating factors. Some of these aggravating factors include:
- Assault against a peace officer or protected employee
- Use of a deadly weapon or firearm
- Prior assault and battery convictions
- Intention to harm
Assault and battery are classified and penalized in the following way:
First Degree Assault.
- When? Assault is considered first degree assault if it results in bodily harm to another, often involving a deadly weapon or when it is committed against a peace officer or other protected employee.
- Charged As: Class 3 felony
- Penalties: 4-12 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $750,000
Second Degree Assault.
- When? Assault is considered second degree assault when it results in reckless or intentional bodily harm to another, often involving a deadly weapon or dangerous substance.
- Charged as: Class 4 felony
- Penalties: 2-6 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $500,000
Third Degree Assault.
- When? Assault is considered second third degree assault when it results in bodily injury through negligence or recklessness. Intent is not required for a third degree assault charge. Additionally, “pain” is classified as “injury” in a third degree assault charge.
- Charged As: Class 1 misdemeanor
- Penalties: 6-18 months in prison and/or up to $5,000 in fines
- When? Menacing is simply threatening an act of violence against another person.
- Charged As: Class 3 misdemeanor
- Penalties: up to 6 months in prison and/or up to $750 in fines
Menacing with a Deadly Weapon.
- When? If you threaten someone with a deadly weapon, or something that appears to be a deadly weapon, you will face serious consequences.
- Charged As: Class 5 felony
- Penalties: 1-3 years in prison and/or up to $100,000 in fines
If you are charged with a violent felony in the state of Colorado, some of your rights will be taken away even after you are released from imprisonment.
As a convicted felon, you will not be able to purchase a deadly weapon. You will have to disclose your criminal history on job applications. Your conviction will become public knowledge. And you will not be able to hold a position as an officer of trust, serve as an attorney, or work at family care facilities where children are present.
Defenses against Assault and Battery Charges
As you can see, assault and battery charges come with serious consequences. But the lines between the different classifications of assault are not always so clear.
That is why it is so important to get an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney on your side. He or she will be able to use their knowledge to help you negotiate a reasonable sentence or prove your innocence.
There are a number of possible defenses that you may be able to use depending on your specific situation:
- Defense of others/defense of property
- Unreliable witness account
- You did not have the intention to harm (to lessen your sentence)
We provide more details for more of these defenses (particularly in the case of domestic assault or battery) here.
Where Crimes of Passion Fit In
Sometimes assaults are committed in the heat of the moment, out of sudden anger or heartbreak. In this case, you could plead that you acted out of passion.
If a judge determines your charge was a crime of passion, your charge will be reduced. For example, if you were charged with second degree assault, but the assault was a crime of passion, you will only be charged with a Class 6 felony.
This rule typically does not apply to a menacing charge.
Want to learn where you stand and what options you have to fight your charge? Reach out to a skilled Colorado assault lawyer as soon as possible.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.