Have you been Charged with Assault in Georgia?
Assault and various other crimes against a person require a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer to help you sort through the details of your case. Lawson and Berry and their team of Assault Attorneys are experts in this field and are committed to helping you fight the charge. Remember, a charge is not the same as a conviction so call us today to schedule a free consultation. Don't wait to act; it could have detrimental consequences for you and your loved ones.
Assault and battery are two terms that people use synonymously when in fact they are two different offenses.
A person commits the offense of simple assault when he or she either (1) attempts to commit a violent injury to the person of another; or (2) commits an act which places another in reasonable apprehension of immediately receiving a violent injury.
What Does Reasonable Apprehension Mean?
Over the years, the Court has looked into what “reasonable apprehension” means. Generally, the Court has ruled that words without an act cannot constitute an assault. For example, if a person was yelling at another person and said, “I'm going to shoot you” but there was no gun in sight, then no assault has occurred. On the other hand, if someone does have a gun in his or her hand but it is not loaded and threatens to shoot you, an assault could still have occurred if the victim thought the gun was loaded.
Also, the victim must be in reasonable apprehension of immediate harm. The Court has decided that apprehension is not the same as fear and that instead, it means there must be an awareness that an injury or offensive contact is imminent. However, whether or not the act creates apprehension in the mind of a reasonable person depends on the particular circumstances of each case. For example, it may take less to build fear for a child versus an adult. Also, if the person is unaware of the threat of harm to them, then no assault has occurred. For example, if a suspect points a gun at a sleeping person's head, no crime has occurred because they are unaware of the harm. Lastly, if the suspect threatens future harm, then an assault has not occurred. The victim must be in fear of immediate harm.
Georgia Assault Cases
In the case of Wroge v. State, the accused was found guilty of assault. 278 Ga. App. 753, (2006). The accused, Wroge, and his wife met up to exchange their daughter. They were separated at the time and wife asked her sister in law, Davis, to come with her to the exchange. Davis had earlier overheard a telephone conversation in which Wroge had threatened, “Get her out, get her out or I'm going to destroy Davis and family.” During the exchange, the daughter got into the car with Davis, and she heard the conversation getting heated between Wroge and his wife. Davis stepped outside and asked Wroge to lower his voice, but he slammed her door shut and yelled, “stay out of it.” He then got into his car and started driving around the parking lot until he came back to where they were parked. Davis called the police because she believed that Wroge intended to harm her.
During the trial, Wroge argued that there was insufficient evidence to support that he was guilty of assault of Davis and that the State failed to show any evidence that he intended to commit the crime. The Court noted that the statute does not require any specific intent, it only requires intent to commit an act which places another in rational apprehension of injury. Therefore, the Court concluded that Davis was reasonable in her apprehension of receiving immediate harm from Davis, and he was convicted of assault.
As stated earlier, words without an act usually do not constitute assault. An example of this can be found in the case of Payne v. Dekalb County. 414 F. Supp. 2d 1158, (2004). A young girl named Makia Clarke would ride her bike on Panesa Payne's property. Payne told Clarke she should not ride her bike anymore on her property. She also threatened to “kick a child's ass” if Clarke did not get out of her yard. Clarke's parents went to Payne's house to confront her about the conversation when it got heated, and Payne furthermore threatened to “kick the child's parents ass.” The Court ruled that the threat to Makia and her parents did not constitute assault because the words came from inside the house with no explicit action to walk outside and in neither case were the parties in apparent danger from Payne.
What has to be Proven
To be convicted of assault, the State must demonstrate that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. With regards to assault, there must be a demonstration of violence coupled with an apparent present ability to inflict an injury that causes a person to fear that they will receive an immediate violent injury. Johnson v. State, 158 Ga. App. 432, (1981). Also, the State must demonstrate that a reasonable person would be put in apprehension of a harmful or offensive act.
Penalty for Assault in Georgia
A conviction for assault can have grave consequences. The penalty can include a period of confinement of up to one year and up to $1,000 in fines.
However, there are certain situations in which the conviction will be escalated to a misdemeanor of a high or aggravated nature. These consequences can include a period of confinement of up to one year and up to $5,000 in fines. These include:
- If the assault is committed in a public transit vehicle or station. O.C.G.A. § 16-5-20(c)
- If the crime is committed between past or present spouses, foster parents of foster children, or other persons living in the same household. O.C.G.A. § 16-5-20(d)
- If the crime is committed against a person, who is 65 years of age or older. O.C.G.A. § 16-5-20(e)
- If the crime is committed against an employee of a public school system of this state while the employee is engaged in official duties or on school property. O.C.G.A. § 16-5-20(f)
- If the crime is committed against a female, who is pregnant at the time of the offense.
Another penalty that could be awarded by the Court is for the defendant to pay restitution to the victim. Restitution is where the defendant reimburses the victim for any expenses that resulted from the crime committed against them. It could include the cost of medical treatment or counseling. Anyone in Georgia that is convicted of assault of battery could be subject to this consequence.
Also, there is a possibility that the court would impose probation instead of jail time for part of the sentence or instead of a jail sentence. This is left to the judge's discretion and is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If put on probation, the defendant would be required to meet regularly with a probation officer. There would also be conditions they would have to satisfy such as submitting to drug tests, performing community service, attending counseling, etc.
A threat to commit an injury to another in the future, not immediately: Assault requires that a victim is in reasonable apprehension of immediate harm. A warning of future harm will not be enough to find a suspect guilty of assault.
They were not in reasonable apprehension of an assault: If you can prove that the victim was not in reasonable apprehension of assault, then you will not be convicted of the crime of assault. Whether or not someone was in reasonable apprehension may be a question left up to the jury to decide and your Attorney will work with you to prove that it was not reasonable.
Self Defense: This is a common defense used in assault and battery cases. However, there are some things that you must show to establish that self-defense was necessary. You must show that (1) there was a threat of unlawful force or harm against you; (2) there was a reasonable basis for your fear of injury to yourself;(3) you did not provoke the threat; and (4) there was no reasonable chance for you to escape or retreat. One of our highly skilled Assault Lawyers can assist you with establishing this defense.
Defense of Others: This argument is similar to regular self-defense with the only difference being that you must honestly believe that another person is in danger of being harmed. The victim must reasonably believe that they are in danger of being harmed to satisfy this defense.
Defense of Property: If you used reasonable force when defending your property, such as your home, then you may have an argument that the assault was justified. An example is if someone stole your purse or bag, then you could have the right to use reasonable force to recover that property. There is not a bright line rule on when an owner is allowed to use reasonable force. Instead, the Court rules on a case by case basis. Your Georgia Assault Attorney will assist you in arguing that the force used was necessary, and therefore, the assault charges should be dropped.
Consent: If you had consent to touch a person or commit an act, then it generally cannot be considered assault. However, if the touching exceeded the intended amount, then there still can be grounds for assault.
Innocence: An alibi or witness testimony that you could not have committed the crime is always valuable. It can also be useful if there is a case of mistaken identity.
While these are just some of the defenses your Attorney could use to help your case, every case is unique, and your Lawyer will evaluate your case to see which defenses will be the best option for your case. Your Attorney could negotiate on your behalf and try to work out a plea deal with less serious consequences or try to get the charges dismissed altogether.
What are not Defenses to Assault
I did not come into physical contact with the victim: Assault does not require that you come into direct contact with a victim. The crime can still be committed if you created a reasonable apprehension that a harmful touching was about to occur. Tuggle v. State, 145 Ga. App. 603, (1978).
The gun was not loaded: Even if the intended act could not be completed (i.e. the gun was not loaded, or it was a fake) if the victim honestly thought that they could be hurt, then an assault could still occur.
It was just a joke: Whether or not the threat was serious does not generally matter unless the threat was so unbelievable that the victim could not have honestly believed harm would come from it. If the victim was put in reasonable apprehension that a violent act could or was going to occur, then that is grounds for assault.
The victim did not say anything that made them seem scared: Proof that a victim has been placed in apprehension of immediately receiving a violent injury does not have to be just by testimony. It can be inferred from the conduct of the victim. For example, if they began to retreat to safety or started to shield their body. Hurt v. State, 158 Ga. App. 722, (1981).
But it was my parents: Sometimes people are under the misconception that you cannot be charged with a crime against your parents. However, this is not true. If you placed your parents in reasonable apprehension of immediately receiving an injury, then you would most likely be convicted of assault.
Having knowledgeable representation is of up the utmost importance when facing a criminal charge. Your Georgia Assault Attorney will investigate all the details surrounding your case and evaluate your options. They will be available all the time to you – even nights and weekends – because your case is important. Lawson and Berry and their team of Assault Attorneys will work with you to fight your charge and avoid a conviction. Call today and schedule a free consultation.