You didn’t wake up that morning thinking you would get into an altercation, but that’s exactly what happened. Words were exchanged, and before you knew it, things got physical. Eventually, you found yourself in the back of a police car under arrest for assault and battery.
The day’s events were a whirlwind. Now, you need to know what to do. With the help of a defense attorney, you can understand exactly what you’re facing and can strategize on how to handle the issues and decisions that will come your way.
South Carolina’s assault and battery laws are listed in S.C. Code Ann. § 16-3-600. This section of the law outlines the actions that qualify as assault and battery and establishes the penalties for each level of offense. The level of offense largely depends on the damage the assault caused or could have caused, and there are other factors that can push a charge higher even if injuries or potential injuries are not that bad.
The lowest level of offense is 3rd Degree Assault and Battery. The severity of the act and corresponding punishment rise up to the highest level called Assault and Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature. Let’s explore each charge.
This offense is the least serious of all the assault and battery offenses. According to SC law, it occurs when a person unlawfully injures, or offers or attempts to injure, another person. The person charged must have the present ability to injure the other person. Therefore, an empty threat does not meet the statutory definition.
Sometimes called “simple assault,” 3rd Degree Assault and Battery is defined as a lesser offense than any of the other assault and battery charges. The law references the definitions of other assault charges as a matter of comparison. If an assault charge is not serious enough to meet the 2nd degree, it falls to the 3rd degree.
If you've been accused of 3rd Degree Assault and Battery, you are facing a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine up to $500.
An assault rises to 2nd Degree Assault and Battery when the elements of 3rd Degree Assault and Battery are met (a person unlawfully injures, or offers or attempts to injure, another person with the present ability to do so) plus one of the following:
- the assaulted person receives or could have received moderate bodily injury, or
- the act involves the nonconsensual touching of the private parts of a person, either under or above clothing.
This is a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to three years in jail and/or a fine up to $2,500.
Moving up in severity, 1st Degree Assault and Battery is a felony charge. To warrant this charge, the assault must meet one of the following criteria:
- caused or could have caused great bodily injury;
- involved nonconsensual touching of the private parts of a person, either under or above clothing, with lewd and lascivious intent; or
- happened during the commission of a robbery, burglary, kidnapping or theft also rises to the 1st degree.
The penalty for this offense is up to 10 years in jail. There is no fine associated with this charge, so the judge only has a jail sentence to use for punishment.
Assault and Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature (ABHAN) Section 16-3-600(B)(3)
Assault and Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature is a very serious crime. According to SC law, the next level charge in terms of severity is attempted murder. Like 1st Degree Assault and Battery, this charge means the act caused or could have caused great bodily injury. To warrant an ABHAN charge, someone must have been injured. The penalty for this offense is up to 20 years in prison.
Getting help to fight your charges
If you or someone you care about is facing an assault and battery charge, you need a criminal defense attorney in your corner advising you on the decisions you will need to make and informing you on the legal process. Get in touch with the experienced attorneys at the Giese Law firm by calling or filling out this form to discuss your case.