In the District of Columbia, simple assault is a misdemeanor crime. Ordinarily, an individual charged with simple assault is not jury demandable. A conviction for assault can be serious and lead to jail time. The government could file hate crime enhancements where evidence exists the assault was motivated by some type of racial, gender, or sexuality-based animus. In some circumstances, assault offenses may be expunged. There are also a number of defenses against assault charges. Finally, a number both misdemeanor and felony offenses exist where the government must prove some type of assault occurred.
What is an assault?
The law defines an assault in DC in two ways. First, a “battery” assault occurs where an intentional touching of another occurs. The second type of assault is an “intent to frighten” assault that usually involves some type of threat or other conduct intended to frighten another. The most common example of a simple assault is a fight that breaks out in a bar. Other conduct like threatening to harm someone or getting in someone’s face could potentially be an intent to frighten assault.
What is the maximum penalty of simple assault?
Simple assault carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and/or a $1,000.00 fine. That is typical for misdemeanors in DC and that charge alone is not jury demandable. Most judges in Superior Court will not sentence someone to the maximum. However, depending on the nature of the injury and the impact on the complaining witness as well as other aggravating factors, it is very possible for a judge to sentence jail time for simple assault. If you are convicted of simple assault, the complaining witness or “victim” is legally entitled to give what’s called a “victim impact statement”. The judge must consider that statement in imposing a sentence.
What are hate crime enhancements?
If the government believes the defendant assaulted the complainant because of some type of racial, gender, or sexuality-based animus, they can file what are called “hate crime enhancements.” Hate crime enhancements increase the maximum penalty for assault to 1.5 times the normal maximum or to 270 days and/or a $1,500.00 fine. If the government files hate crime enhancements, the case becomes jury demandable.
Can an assault arrest be expunged?
As with any charge, if the defendant’s case gets dismissed and the defendant can show by a preponderance of evidence that she is “actually innocent” of the offense, then the arrest record for an assault may be expunged. To prove actual innocence, the defendant must usually obtain a declaration or affidavit from the complainant stating, under oath, that the assault did not occur or someone else committed the assault. Even if the defendant cannot prove actual innocence, s/he may file a motion to seal two years from the date of dismissal. If convicted of assault, the defendant must wait eight years from the completion of the sentence. In both cases, the defendant must not get rearrested for a “disqualifying offense” like a DUI.
What are defenses to simple assault?
Several defense to the crime of simple assault exist in DC. First and probably the most common is self-defense. If the defendant reasonably fears for her safety, a proportional amount of force can be used in self-defense. In addition, defense of others is a defense to simple assault where the defendant reasonably fears for the safety of another and uses force to protect the other person. Another common defense to simple assault is mistake or accident. Not all unwanted touchings of another are illegal. If someone accidentally bumps into you or even accidentally harms you in some physical way, the person may be found not guilty unless the government can prove beyond a reasonable doubt the physical contact occurred not by mistake or accident.
What other assault crimes exist in DC?
Several other criminal offenses exist in the DC code that are similar to or are some other category of assault. Misdemeanor assault offenses include:
Assault on a Police Officer
There are also a number of common felony offenses that require the government to prove some type of assault occurred:
Assault with significantly bodily injury (aggravated assault)
Assault with a dangerous weapon
Assault with intent to kill (“AWIK”)
Assault with intent to murder (“AWIM”)
Most of these offenses require an assault plus additional criminal conduct to occur. For example, assault on a police officer is just a regular assault but the complaining witness is a police officer. Assault with significant bodily injury is an offense that requires the government to prove an assault occurred and the complainant suffered a “significant bodily injury” that required them to get medical treatment. Other felony assault offenses require the government to prove the individual had some evil intent when the assault occurred (like trying to kill or murder the complainant).
Should I hire a DC assault lawyer?
An experienced DC assault lawyer can make sure your rights are protected and defend you from the government’s charges. Whether misdemeanor or felony, assault offenses in DC are serious crimes and have can result in the defendant getting locked up, among other things. If you have a defense, a qualified DC assault lawyer can subpoena witnesses to testify on your behalf, investigate the complaining witness, and file motions to challenge the government’s evidence. At Scrofano Law PC, we regularly handle DC assault charges. Contact us today for a thorough consultation.