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Can I Be Charged With Assault if I Didn't Mean to Hurt Someone?

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Can I Be Charged With Assault if I Didn't Mean to Hurt Someone?


Causing physical harm to someone or causing them to feel threatened that they are about to experience physical harm make up the Nevada crimes of battery and assault, respectively. When someone finds themselves arrested for assault after a drunken night on the town or a disagreement that go out of hand, one of the first questions we often receive as a Reno criminal defense firm is “I never meant to hurt the other person. Did I actually do anything wrong?” This is a fairly common question we receive, and it’s one that’s got a pretty straightforward answer as well.

Here’s the answer that often surprises people: if you inadvertently injure someone while attempting to make them feel threatened, you can be charged with assault. Even if you never actually intended to cause an injury to someone, the law that defines assault does not require that any physical harm occur for the crime to be committed—the threat of harm alone is enough to warrant charges.

The Crimes of Assault and Battery

Assault and battery are actually separate charges. While most people know of the term “assault and battery” from watching crime dramas on television, few people recognize that they’re actually two entirely different acts. You can be charged with assault without battery, and likewise battery without assault.

Battery is the act of intentionally using “unlawful force” on someone else’s body for the purposes of causing them harm. For example, someone who gets into a bar fight with another patron over a tab dispute could be charged with battery for connecting a punch to the other patron’s face.

Assault with Intent to Injure

Assault doesn’t necessarily require that physical harm or “unlawful force” is exerted. Instead, the crime of assault is simply intentionally threatening another person or making them feel as though they are about to be harmed physically. The victim must be aware that the threat is occurring.

Assault Without Intent to Injure

Now that we know the difference, we can answer the question more accurately.

Let’s go back to the bar fight example. Say Patron A has had a pretty tough week, and gets into a disagreement when he hears Patron B trying to sneak extra drinks for their group onto his tab. Having already had enough, Patron A goes over to Patron B and tells them to knock it off and pay for their own drinks. Patron B, trying to call his bluff, tells him to sit down and shut up. This sends Patron A over the edge, causing him to lash out quickly clench a fist, and hold it up to Patron B’s face, all while issuing violent threats of harm. When the police arrive to the scene, they arrest Patron A for assault.

Why? Simple: while Patron A never actually touched Patron B, he issued verbal threats and made motions that were intended to cause fear and make Patron B feel as though they were about to be physically harmed. Even though Patron A never meant to hurt Patron B and restrained his conduct, Patron A has still committed the crime of assault, and could face criminal charges for it.

Now, had Patron A really gone overboard and actually thrown a punch at Patron B, then his crime may have been escalated to include one charge of assault and one charge of battery, since he intentionally used “unlawful force” on someone else’s body.

Assault With a Deadly Weapon

The charge of “assault with a deadly weapon” is the use of any sort of weapon, such a knife, firearm, blunt instrument, or anything else that could cause harm, to threaten another individual with harm. Even if there was no intent to injure the other party, the mere act of using this weapon to make the other party feel threatened is enough to add in this aggravating factor, which escalates your charges to a category B felony and could land you behind bars from anywhere between one to six years.

Have you been accused of assault or battery? Speak with a Reno criminal defense attorney and stand up for your rights! Call the Law Office of Kenneth A. Stover at (775) 502-1575 to request a case evaluation.
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