The South Carolina penal code punishes a range of violent conduct known collectively as assault and battery. A victim need not have suffered actual harm for these crimes to have occurred. Assault and battery charges can be brought against someone who threatens to inflict bodily injury on another person with the apparent ability to do so or who in fact inflicts such an injury.
There are four categories or degrees of assault and battery set forth in state statutes, each with specific elements that affect the potential punishments imposed. They are:
- Third degree assault and battery — Also known as “simple assault,” this crime is charged against someone who attempts to cause injury or actually causes injury. Simple assault is a misdemeanor that carries a jail sentence not to exceed 30 days.
- Second degree assault and battery — This felony is charged when someone attempts to cause physical injury or the victim in fact suffers moderate injury. It also includes non-consensual touching of the victim’s private parts. This crime carries a prison sentence not to exceed three years.
- First degree assault and battery — This means an act of violence against another person that is likely to result in death or serious injury. This crime includes any assault made in connection with a kidnapping, robbery or burglary. It also includes any non-consensual touching of another person’s private parts with lewd or lascivious intent. This crime is a felony that carries a prison term of up to 10 years.
- Aggravated assault and battery — This is the highest level of assault. It consists of inflicting great bodily injury on a victim or using such force that the victim was likely to suffer great bodily injury. Aggravated assault and battery is a felony carrying a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
Not every actual or attempted use of force against another person is a criminal assault. Under the law, a person may use violence, or the threat of violence, to stop a perpetrator from assaulting them or another innocent party. The level of force used in defense of oneself or others must be reasonable and proportional to the level of violence threatened by the other party. Whether defensive violence is justified is a question for the jury at trial. For more details on assault and battery crimes and defenses, consult with a qualified criminal defense attorney.
Columbia attorney Jack B. Swerling is among the top criminal defense litigators in South Carolina and is nationally recognized for his work. If you have been charged with assault of any type or degree, feel free to contact the office online or call 800-701-0599 for an initial consultation.