Criminal charges for assault and battery are doubly confusing in Huntsville not only because they can be the source of both criminal and civil cases, but also because Alabama's criminal law does not recognize battery as a separate offense. To make matters even more confusing, the criminal charge for assault in Alabama is the same as the criminal charge for battery in most other states.
What is Assault and Battery?
While they are often mentioned together, assault and battery are actually two different things. Typically, a battery is intentionally touching someone else where that contact is either offensive or harmful. An assault, on the other hand, happens when someone intentionally puts someone else in the imminent fear of a battery.
For example, if you are standing toe-to-toe with someone, and the other person draws their fist back to punch you in the face, an assault is occurring. The battery, however, does not occur until their knuckles hit your jaw.
That is why assault and battery often happen together. The assault happens and then is immediately followed by a battery.
Assault and Battery: Criminal Versus Civil Cases
Confusingly, assault and battery can be the grounds for both criminal cases and civil cases.
A criminal case is brought by the state of Alabama through prosecutors at the District Attorney's Office against an individual person. These criminal charges allege that the person violated the law – the statute that forbids assaulting and battering someone else – and aim to deprive that person of liberty or property through the jail time and fines that come with violations of that law.
A civil case, on the other hand, is a lawsuit brought by one person against another person and claim that the person bringing the case, the plaintiff, was hurt by the defendant and deserves compensation.
Assaulting and Battering Under Alabama Criminal Law
Alabama's criminal law is different than most states in the U.S. in that there is no statute that prohibits battery. Instead, there are only statutes that forbid assault.
However, the laws against assault actually prohibit the act of causing a physical injury to someone else – something that is more in line with the crime of battery in other states. Adding to the confusion, there are three degrees of assault in Alabama.
- First-degree assault under Alabama Code § 13A-6-20, which is a Class B felony.
- Second-degree assault under § 13A-6-21, which is a Class C felony.
- Third-degree assault under § 13A-6-22, which is a Class A misdemeanor.
Each of these specifies different types of conduct that range from intentional to criminally negligent conduct that causes serious injuries all the way down to minor ones.
Robin Wolfe: Criminal Defense for the Accused in Huntsville
Small differences in the law like these can make or break a case. Having a criminal defense lawyer on your side who understands these differences can help you defend against a serious criminal allegation like assault. Call the law office of Robin Wolfe or contact her online if you have been accused of assault in Huntsville.
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