Washington DC Assault Lawyer
Assault is a crime against a person that involves many different categories of crime and varying levels of severity based on the arrested person’s intent and the physical harm done to the victim. The common crime in the District of Columbia is simple assault.
But even the nature of that charge can change based on who is allegedly assaulted. If the crime is allegedly committed against someone in “an intrafamily relationship” then prosecutors in DC will charge the crime in domestic violence court. The law defines “intrafamily offense” broadly to include any relative, any former or current romantic partner, and even includes a roommate.
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For anyone to get charged with assaulting someone in one of the above categories, the prosecutors will charge them in domestic violence court. While the maximum penalties in DC do not change for simple assault against a stranger or intrafamily relation, several collateral consequences exist in domestic violence court that does not exist with a regular misdemeanor simple assault charge. In addition, the domestic violence prosecutors tend to prosecute domestic assaults more aggressively than regular misdemeanor prosecutors.
Another assault-type crime that depends on the identity of the alleged victim is the DC assault on a police officer statute. The DC criminal code provides for two distinct offenses that vary in severity based on the defendant’s alleged conduct. These are assault on a police officer and resisting arrest. Like a domestic violence assault, an assault on a police officer charge depends on the identity of the complaining witness. If the complaining witness is a law enforcement officer, the government can charge assault on a police officer.
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Notwithstanding who potentially gets assaulted, the government can prove different types of assault based on the facts of an individual case. Where there is an unwanted physical touching, the government can proceed on a theory of battery. That requires the government to prove three key elements. First, the government must prove that there was an unwanted touching of another. Second, the government must prove the touching was not done by mistake or accident. Finally, the government must prove the defendant had the actual ability to injure the person.
A second theory the government can proceed on in a simple assault case is attempt-to-frighten assault. Under this theory, a physical touching is not required for the prosecution. Instead, the prosecution can show that the defendant took some action or stated some words that put the alleged victim in “reasonable fear of immediate injury.” The government must still prove the action was intentional and not by mistake or accident. In addition to assault, the District of Columbia criminal code also has separate crimes for threats.
A third type of simple assault is called “non-violent sexual touching assault.” It is very similar to the run of the mill simple assault, but the nature of the unwanted touching changes the offense. For this offense, the touching must be on another person’s body in a way that “would cause fear, shame, humiliation, or mental anguish” in a reasonable person. This crime carries the same maximum penalty as a simple assault.
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In most assault offenses, regardless of who the complainant is, defendants have specific defenses available to them. These defenses include self-defense and defense of others.
In both instances, a successful defense hinges on the reasonableness of the defendant’s actions. These defenses are typical not involved in a sexual touching type assault again because of the nature of the unwanted touching. It would be hard for a criminal defense attorney to argue the defendant grabbed the complainant’s genitals for self-defense or defense of others. A more common defense to a sexual touching type assault is mistake or accident.
Setting aside the difference in assault crimes based on the identity of the complaining witness, several different assault crimes in DC criminal law exist where the defendant’s mindset and the complainant’s injuries dictate the charge. In the District of Columbia, there are a number of felony assault crimes. Some of these charges include assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with significant bodily injury, and aggravated assault.
For assault with a dangerous weapon, the defendant must commit a simple assault plus have used an object in a manner likely to produce death or serious bodily injury. Assault with significant bodily injury requires he complaining witness to sustain an injury that requires hospitalization or immediate medical attention. Finally, aggravated assault is similar to assault with significant bodily injury, but the injury must be more severe.
Assault crimes get even more serious when the defendant commits an assault with an intent to commit another crime. These charges largely focus on what the defendant’s alleged mindset is rather than the nature of the injury or the identity of the complainant. These criminal charges include assault with intent to rob, assault with intent to kill, assault with intent to murder, assault with intent to commit sexual abuse of a minor. All of these charges are extremely serious and the Court could impose significant prison time for individuals convicted. In addition, there is a felony assault on a police officer charge where the same elements must be proven as its misdemeanor counterpart, but the government also has to prove the officer sustained significant injury.
These are charges where self-defense and defense of others could come into play. These defenses are particularly relevant where the crime committed depends on proof of the defendant’s mindset. For example, evidence that a defendant assaulted someone in defense of themselves or another could negate evidence that the intent was more criminal like wanting to kill or murder the person.
The law of assault in the District of Columbia is complex. If you or someone you know is charged with an assault offense, its important to have an experienced and aggressive DC assault attorney in your corner. An attorney thoroughly investigating an assault case can make a huge difference especially in a world where much of what happens out there gets caught on video.