Assault or battery of another person is a stigmatized crime. While there are many scenarios in which these crimes are charged, including self-defense, a conviction marks a defendant as a violent person and the consequences can follow you throughout adulthood, making it difficult to obtain many types of jobs, rent apartments, or obtain professional licensure.
Allegations and convictions may also negatively impact divorce proceedings and child custody arrangements.
There are many defenses to charges involving assault. But it’s always up to a defendant to assert those rights as soon as possible. If you are facing investigation or arrest, do not speak with law enforcement or attempt to explain yourself. While this can be tempting, it is never helpful and may even limit your St. Louis defense attorney’s ability to build your defense.
Reaching out to an experienced criminal defense lawyer in St. Louis as soon as possible is always the best thing you can do to protect your rights.
Among the most common misconceptions about assault charges is that a physical attack of some form is required. However, assault is defined as “any intentional act that causes another person to fear for their physical harm.” By definition, even threats may carry the consequences of an assault charge under Missouri law. There are some states that define battery as carrying through with those threats by an actual physical assault. However, Missouri law does not make that distinction.
Under Missouri law, there are four types of assault charges.
Enhanced charges may result if special victims are involved, which are defined under the law as first responder, probation or parole officers, disabled individuals, the elderly or those otherwise defined as vulnerable, corrections officers, highway and utility workers, and mass transit employees.
Domestic assaults are a separate category of offense that carry their own penalties and consequences. In addition to jail time and fines, a defendant can be subject to restraining orders, an inability to continue living at home, restrictions on your ability to spend time with your children, and negative consequences in divorce or child custody proceedings.
Domestic assault can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, with a substantial variance in penalties. Misdemeanor assault can include threats or engaging in reckless activities that create the risk of harm. Such charges may also include “restraining” a victim, which can be as simple as limiting access to transportation or the telephone. Felony domestic assault involves allegations of recklessly causing physical injury (notice such injury does not have to be intentional), use of a weapon, or physical force such as choking.
Protective orders or restraining orders are typically granted in the wake of allegations and last 15 days. A defendant may be prevented from returning home or approaching an alleged victim during that time. A full protective order may be granted by the court for up to one year and extended whenever the court approves a petition to do so.
There are many steps an experienced defense attorney can take to eliminate or reduce the charges you are facing. Early consultation is key. As you can see from the scenarios above, actual physical attack is not necessary. In somes cases, injury may even be accidental or the result of “adequate cause” and still result in very serious potential criminal penalties.
Every case is unique. Each fact or circumstance of a charge must be proved by the state beyond a reasonable doubt. Each enhancement must also be proven. Exercising your right to remain silent and seeking the help of an experienced St. Louis defense lawyer as early as possible offer the best chance to successfully beat these charges or to seek a reduction that will minimize the consequences. These charges always require a proactive defense, but that is particularly true in cases involving self-defense or allegations of domestic violence. Protection orders may be issued indefinitely if not properly and timely challenged, and can have a significant negative effect on a defendant’s life, employment, reputation, relationship with children, and outcome of family law cases.
Even when the state has the evidence for conviction, there are many steps an experienced criminal defense law firm in St. Louis can take to reduce the penalties and to help ensure probation or other court mandates will not result in future serious consequences as a defendant moves on with his life.
The state can charge you with whatever it wants. In fact, it’s common for authorities to seek the most serious charge possible, and to also include a lesser assault offense in case the more serious charge is successfully challenged. What matters is whether you are convicted in court and whether your chosen St. Louis defense lawyer has the knowledge and experience to protect your rights at each stage of the process.
Most states have a variety of assault charges such as aggravated assault or assault in the first degree. Depending on the facts of your case, the state may choose to charge you with a higher-level crime than is necessary. I work to get your charges reduced through a variety of pretrial motions. I also fight to get clients the most lenient sentence possible under the circumstances.