How to Defend Against an Assault Charge

How to Defend Against an Assault ChargeWhen a person faces assault charges, they may not know what to do. They may wonder if they are going to jail. They may not understand what assault means. People hear “assault and battery” all the time and may think that the words are interchangeable. However, the two actions are legally different.

In its simplest terms, assault is when the victim fears imminent harmful contact, and battery is the actual physical contact. The Illinois Compiled Statutes explains that “[a] person commits an assault when, without lawful authority, he or she knowingly engages in conduct which places another in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery.” In other words, someone threatens or acts in a threatening manner toward someone else in such a way that the other person has a reasonable fear for their safety without physically being touched. Battery occurs when a person is touched physically.

In Illinois, assault ranges from simple to aggravated and can also involve a sexual crime. Simple assault is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail, probation, community service, and/or a fine. Aggravated assault is a Class A misdemeanor that may be punishable by up to a year in jail, probation, and a fine. Aggravated assault may also be a felony, depending on the circumstances surrounding the alleged assault. Sexual assault is typically a Class 1 felony. Many factors are involved in defending an assault charge, beginning with understanding what led to the alleged assault.

Possible Defenses

The first defense to an assault charge is to determine whether an assault happened. Remember that the definition of assault depends on the “reasonable apprehension” that the person feels when the alleged assault occurs. A person’s perception of fear or a threat varies with the circumstances surrounding the alleged assault. Those circumstances include the individuals involved in the event.

Imagine one person walking up to another person and saying, “I am going hurt you.” Suppose the first person is carrying a large book that he waves around, but no weapon or any item that the second person thinks is a weapon. In this situation, the second person may think the words are a prank or do not feel that their well-being was threatened. A judge or jury may find that the action is not criminal assault even though the first person said to the second that they would hurt them because words alone are not sufficient to constitute an assault.

However, imagine if the first person was carrying a bat, stick, or a knife in a casual way, walked up to the second person and said, “I am going to hurt you.” In that situation, the perception may change on what actions and words constitute a threat. The second person may still feel safe because the bat, stick, or knife is not pointing at them.

Now imagine if the first person points the bat, stick, or knife at the second person and says, “I am going to hurt you.” In this case, the perception changes even more. The second person may feel that they are in danger and that the words, together with the weapon pointing at them, now imply a threat to their safety.

The defense your lawyer creates for you will be based upon the facts of your case. If you didn’t act in a threatening way toward the person who claims to have been assaulted, the charges might be dropped.

A second defense is the defense of self, another person, or property. According to the Illinois Compiled Statutes, self-defense means that you acted in a certain way because it was “necessary to defend” yourself. Deadly force can sometimes even be used if it was “necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm” to yourself or someone else. Notice that the key is “imminent death or great bodily harm.” In order for this defense to be applicable, the person who has complained that they were the victim of an assault must have, in turn, assaulted or threatened the person who’s been charged.

Related to self-defense is the defense that you were protecting someone else or your property. The Illinois Compiled Statutes are clear that a person must reasonably believe the force was necessary to prevent injury to themselves, their property, or others.

Contact Us

Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC is an experienced criminal defense team and we know how to conduct a proper criminal defense. With all the factors that go into defending an assault charge, it is important that your attorney is skilled in the area of assault and can be a fierce advocate for you. We have more than 30 years of experience in serving our clients in matters related to assault charges, we can help you.

Contact the assault and battery defense lawyers of Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC at (312) 644-0444 for a consultation on your case. Don’t go through this alone, and don’t worry. Let us be your advocate.

Written by Mitchel S. Sexner Last Updated : February 18, 2022