Assault and battery charges can oftentimes be confusing. That’s because you don’t have to physically harm a person to be charged with assault and battery in South Carolina.
You see, assault occurs when someone does something to make someone else fear harm to themselves. Battery occurs when you physically harm someone. However, in South Carolina assault and battery are lumped together under one criminal charge.
In this article we’ll cover:
- Examples of assault and battery
- The fines, charges, penalties and jail time
- The different degrees of assault and battery
- Answer commons questions about assault and battery
Last but not least, if you’re facing an assault and battery charge in SC your first priority should be to seek the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can explain your options and help you plan the best defense possible.
Let’s get started.
Assault & Battery: Charges and Penalties
While it’s sometimes straightforward to tell whether an act is or isn’t assault, that’s not always the case.
So what does an assault and battery charge look like in real life?
Here are a few examples:
1.) One person punches another person.
2.) One person threatens another person by acting like he is about to swing an object at the other person’s head without actually touching them.
3.) One person makes credible terroristic threats toward another person.
4.) One person touches the genitals of another person without permission.
5.) When someone commits one of the acts above, or similar acts, the criminal punishment for such acts is imposed by a judge within limits established in SC law. We’ll cover the possible penalties you could be facing if convicted a little later.
For now, let’s go over the actual charges.
What is a Charge for Assault and Battery?
As previously mentioned, in general, an assault occurs when someone does something to make someone else fear harm to themselves. Battery is actually causing such harm to that other person. However, South Carolina law lumps assault and battery together into one criminal charge, covered in S.C. Code Ann. § 16-3-600. Therefore, whether you cause someone to fear you will injure them or if you actually injure them, both acts are considered assault & battery under SC law.
Additionally, non-consensual touching of the private parts of a person either under or above clothing qualifies as assault and battery. Even though there may be no physical injury, the act meets the legal requirements of the charge.
There are 4 different charges for assault & battery in South Carolina: Assault & Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature, 1st degree, 2nd degree, and 3rd degree charges. Each one is broken down below, but they differ based on the severity of the incident and the penalties associated with it.
Assault & Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature (ABHAN)
ABHAN is the most serious type of assault and battery charge in South Carolina. It also has the most severe penalties. This charge always involves actual physical contact with the victim.
The harm that results must either be great bodily harm or the harm performed was likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the victim. Great bodily harm could be permanent facial disfigurement or losing the use of a leg.
Imagine that Person A breaks into Person B’s home late at night. Person A is surprised to find Person B still awake and watching TV in the main living space. Out of panic, Person A lunges at Person B with a knife, stabbing him several times in the leg. Person B suffers a great deal of blood loss and because he wasn’t able to call for help and no one found him until much later, he ends up losing the leg.
First degree assault and battery charges are brought for two different reasons. You could be facing a 1st degree charge if:
- The victim was injured and the act involves the non consensual touching of the victim’s private parts OR it occurred during a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft
- The alleged perpetrator attempted or offered to injure the victim and the act was likely to produce death or great bodily injury OR it occurred during a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft
Using the scenario from the example above, assume that when Person A stabbed Person B in the leg, Person A fled the home immediately and Person B’s wife was able to call for help immediately. Person B did not lose his leg.
Second degree assault and battery charges are warranted when the alleged offender injures, attempts to injure, or offers to injure another person and one of the following is true:
- The victim incurs moderate bodily injury or could have incurred moderate bodily injury
- The incident involves the non consensual touching of the victim’s private parts
Moderate bodily injury is not the same as the great bodily injury standard used in assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and 1st degree assault and battery charges. Moderate bodily injury is physical injury such as loss of consciousness, temporary or moderate disfigurement, temporary loss of use of a body part, or medical treatment involving anesthesia.
Chris and Brian have always had it out for each other. One night Chris catches Brian hitting on his girlfriend. He waits for Brian by his car as he leaves the bar and punches him in the face. Brian is knocked out cold and bleeding heavily from a deep gash on his forehead.
Third degree assault and battery charges can be brought against the defendant if they injure, attempt to injure, or offer to injure another person. This is the least severe assault & battery charge. It is sometimes called “simple assault.”
Using Chris and Brian from the previous example, now imagine that Chris tries to punch Brian, but Brian ducks at the last second. Brian isn’t actually injured.
Fines and penalties in SC for assault and battery
The maximum fines and penalties for assault and battery are laid out by SC law. As the severity of each charge increases so do the fines and jail time:
Assault & Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature (ABHAN)
- This is a felony charge that could get you up to 20 years in jail.
1st Degree Assault & Battery
- This is a felony charge that could get you up to 10 years in jail.
2nd Degree Assault & Battery
- This is a misdemeanor charge that could get you up to 3 years in jail and/or a fine up to $2,500.
3rd Degree Assault & Battery
- This is a misdemeanor charge that could get you up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine up to $500.
Even though 1st Degree Assault and Battery does not have a fine associated with it, the jail time increases greatly from the 2nd-degree charge. The 1st-degree charge is a felony. The 2nd- and 3rd-degree charges are misdemeanors.
Common Questions About Assault and Battery in SC
There are a lot of issues to think through when you’re charged with assault and battery. The more you know, the better decisions you can make. So here are answers to some of the common questions people have when they are facing assault and battery charges. If you don’t see the answer to your question below, don’t hesitate to contact us! We’re here to help.
Is there a difference between assault and battery?
Under South Carolina law, there is no distinction as to penalty between assault and battery. Both fall under the combined assault and battery statute.
Is assault and battery a felony or misdemeanor?
Whether an assault and battery charge is a felony or misdemeanor depends on how severe it is. Assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and first degree charges are felonies. Second and third degree charges are misdemeanors.
What is assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature?
ABHAN is the most serious type of assault and battery charge in South Carolina. While other types of assault and battery don’t require actual physical contact with the victim, Assault and Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature always does. It also requires either great bodily harm to the victim or potential great bodily harm or death to the victim. What is “great bodily harm?” Serious injuries, such as, permanent disfigurement or loss of a limb qualify as great bodily harm.
ABHAN is a felony, just like 1st degree assault and battery, but comes with a much harsher potential jail time. While 1st degree assault and battery can get you up to 10 years in jail, ABHAN is punishable by up to 20 years in jail.
What is assault and battery with intent to kill?
This charge is now called attempted murder in South Carolina. It is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
What is assault and battery by mob?
This charge can be leveled against a person who joins in a group of two or more people for the purpose of committing a violent act against another person. Basically, it means that more than one person commits assault and battery together. There are 3 degrees of assault and battery by mob. The penalties for assault and battery by mob are serious, much more so than assault and battery when committed by one person.
1st Degree Assault and Battery by Mob
First degree charges involve the death of the victim as a result of the assault and battery. It is punishable by up to 30 years in jail.
2nd Degree Assault and Battery by Mob
Second degree charges involve serious bodily injury to the victim as a result of the assault and battery. It is punishable by up to 25 years in jail.
3rd Degree Assault and Battery by Mob
Third degree charges involve bodily injury of some type to the victim as a result of the assault and battery. It is punishable by up to 1 year in jail.
Get the legal help you need.
If you’re facing an assault and battery charge–or someone you know is– you need to act now. The sooner you consult with an attorney, the sooner the attorney can start building your defense. Call 803-808-0905, or use this form to get in touch with Kent Collins.