If you have been arrested and charged with the crime of assault, there are several things that you need to know. First, assault is a crime that can, depending upon the circumstances, be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. While the jail time for a felony is longer, even a misdemeanor conviction for assault can result in incarceration, a fine, and, perhaps most damaging in the long run, a criminal record. Thus, it is important to take even a misdemeanor charge very seriously and talk to an attorney about ways that you might be able to defend yourself. Depending upon the circumstances, you be able to seek a reduction of the charges against you, or possibly even a dismissal of the case. San Bernardino and Riverside assault defense lawyer Gregory H. Comings handles both felony and misdemeanor assault cases, as well as other types of criminal cases.
The term “assault” can be confusing. This is partly because many people think of it synonymously with the word “battery.” However, under California law, an assault and a battery are two different things. An assault is, at its core, an unlawful attempt to cause a violent injury to another person. A battery, by contrast, occurs when actual force or violence is used; for a battery conviction, there must have been willful conduct by the defendant. The terms “assault” and “battery” are also used in civil cases in which one party seeks monetary compensation from another due to injuries or harm suffered during an alleged altercation between the parties. Financial restitution may also be ordered in a criminal case, but this is a separate issue from money damages awarded in civil court.
One of the most important things to understand about any criminal case, misdemeanor assault or otherwise, is that the State of California has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is true in both felony cases and in misdemeanor cases. Proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” does not mean that there can be no doubt whatsoever in the minds of the jurors (that would likely be impossible in most cases) but only that there be enough legally admissible evidence favoring a finding of guilt that a reasonable person would be satisfied that the defendant is guilty. In order to meet its burden of proof, the State must offer not only convincing proof but also proof which is legally admissible in a court of law. If some of the evidence that the State intends to use against the defendant was obtained in a way that was arguably illegal under the Constitution or some other law, the defendant may be able to have this evidence omitted at trial through a motion to exclude.
The defendant in a misdemeanor assault case may also have a defense such as self-defense, defense of another, or defense of his or her home or personal property. It is important that a person accused of a crime like assault discuss his or her case with an attorney as soon as possible so that potential defenses and other possible legal options may be explored. While we are always honest with a client if we believe a conviction is likely if a case goes to trial, there may still be the possibility of a favorable plea bargain, or in some types of cases, a diversion that could limit the impact that the criminal charge has on the defendant’s future.
A criminal conviction of any kind can have far-reaching consequences – challenges finding future employment, housing, and/or educational opportunities, just to name a few. Lawyer Gregory H. Comings has over a decade of experience defending those accused of assault and battery, sex offenses, driving under the influence, drug offenses, and domestic violence in and around Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. For an appointment to learn more about how we can help in your particular situation, call us at (951) 686-3457 or contact us online to set up an appointment.