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What’s the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony assault?

On Behalf of | Nov 8, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Understanding the nuances between various criminal charges is crucial. One such area of confusion that many people face is distinguishing between misdemeanor and felony assault. Both involve unlawful physical harm to another person, but they differ significantly in terms of severity, consequences and legal implications.

Assault refers to an intentional act that causes another person to fear that they will suffer bodily harm. It’s important to note that actual physical contact is not always necessary for an act to be classified as assault. The key element here is the apprehension of harm.

Misdemeanor assault

Misdemeanor assault is the less severe of the two categories. It typically involves minor altercations, where the physical harm caused is relatively less significant. These offenses are often treated with less severity by the legal system. Elements of misdemeanor assault include:

  • Minor physical harm: Misdemeanor assault usually results in minor injuries or no physical injuries at all.
  • Simple assault: Misdemeanor assault charges are generally filed for simple or less severe acts of violence.
  • Lesser penalties: Misdemeanor assault convictions often result in lighter penalties, such as fines or probation.

Common examples of misdemeanor assault include minor scuffles, fights without severe injuries and incidents where the aggressor has no prior criminal record.

Felony assault

Felony assault, on the other hand, involves more severe incidents of violence that result in significant physical harm or are committed with more malicious intent. These offenses are treated with far greater seriousness by the legal system. Elements of felony assault include:

  • Serious physical harm: Felony assault usually results in significant injuries, which can be life-threatening.
  • Aggravated assault: Felony assault charges often involve factors that escalate the crime, such as the use of weapons or prior criminal records.
  • Harsher penalties: Felony assault convictions can lead to substantial prison sentences and hefty fines.

Examples of felony assault include armed robberies, aggravated battery or assaults resulting in permanent disfigurement or disability.

Understanding the differences in legal consequences is crucial for individuals facing assault charges. Misdemeanor assault convictions typically lead to shorter sentences, while felony assault convictions can result in long prison sentences. Whichever assault charge you’re facing, you should consider working with a legal professional who can minimize the penalties.