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Assault and battery, Part III - who potential penalties escalate

Part I of this series examined the difference between the criminal charges of assault and battery - charges that many people often mistake as one and the same. In Part II, we took a look at some of the potential criminal defense strategies available to defendants facing these charges, such as self-defense and consent. Here, in the last of a three-part series, this post will examine the potential penalties associated with a conviction on these charges, as well as how the charges can be enhanced and the penalties escalated.

In the most common of circumstances - say, a bar fight or threatening to hit someone with an object - a charge of battery or assault will likely be a misdemeanor. But, that doesn't mean that the matter shouldn't be taken seriously. Either of these charges will likely be the highest level of misdemeanor, which usually means that the defendant could face up to a year in jail and hundreds of dollars in fines. The best case scenario with a conviction on a misdemeanor-level charge is a term of probation supervision, which can still be very intrusive and fraught with the possibility of violating the terms of probation.

When serious injuries occur or a firearm is alleged to have been involved, that is when these charges can become felonies. For instance, if the defendant is alleged to have shot another person, the actual charge could be aggravated battery.

The difference is that with the use of a weapon like a firearm the defendant is alleged to have had an obvious intent to cause serious bodily injury - more than just a potential black eye in a fist fight. A conviction on a felony-level assault or battery could result in a prison term because in most jurisdictions there is very little sympathy for violent offenders - even first-time offenders.