When you hear that someone has been charge with assault, you might imagine a physical attack that ended up with someone going to the hospital. A fight where weapons were involved. Or maybe domestic abuse.
However, under the laws of our state, assault is far easier to commit than that. You don’t even have to touch anyone to receive a charge – that’s reserved for battery. By the letter of the law, all you need to do to assault someone is make them afraid that you’re about to harm them.
In other words, “assault” is basically making an immediate physical threat that someone believes you intend to carry out. For example, saying, “I’m going to punch your lights out,” could technically be deemed assault.
When you put it like that, assault doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but unfortunately, the consequences of being convicted of assault are very serious. Even simple assault – a class C misdemeanor – comes with the possibility of up to 30 days in jail and up to $1,500 in fines, and aggravated assault carries penalties of up to three years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
Because of this, it is absolutely vital that you work with a skillful Chicago assault attorney to put together the strongest possible defense. Below are some of the most common strategies that can help you to fight an assault charge.
Defenses That May Help to Combat Your Illinois Assault Charge
Unreasonable fear. Remember, to be convicted of assault, the prosecutor must be able to show that your actions made the alleged victim feel that they were in immediate danger. Because of this, it may be possible to argue that a reasonable person would not have felt enough fear to constitute an assault charge.
For example, it could reasonably be argued that simply saying you’re going to punch someone should not have caused enough fear to bring about an assault charge. However, if you screamed it at them while slamming your fists against a table and waving your arms around, their fear would be more understandable.
Self-defense, defense of others, and defense of property. These are actually three different potential defenses, but they have many similarities. The basic idea behind a “defense” defense is that you acted in a threatening manner because you felt threatened or were attempting to protect someone or something else.
For this defense to work, your lawyer will need to show both that you were acting in defense (of yourself, others, or your property) and that your actions were a reasonable response to the degree and type of threat present. Pulling a gun to defend against the threat of a punch, for example, might not constitute a “reasonable response.”
Consent. If available, this one is an interesting strategy because you are essentially saying “yeah, I did it, but they agreed to it.”
As such, it can be difficult to argue since you must be able to convincingly show that the other party gave permission for you to act in an assaultive manner. Even if you are able to establish that permission was given, the prosecutor will then likely attempt to argue that your acts exceeded that permission.
Alibi. So far, all of the defenses mentioned have been some form or other of affirmative defenses. These types of strategies admit that you did engage in the act but argue that there are reasons why your actions should not be considered criminal.
An alibi is different. It is an argument that you not only did not commit the act, but that you can show it was impossible for you to have done so because you have evidence that you were elsewhere at the time.
Mistaken identity. This one can be particularly strong when paired with an alibi, but it is possible to use even if you were present but did not commit the act in question. Perhaps the victim confused you with someone who was in your party – or with someone else entirely – because you possess similar physical characteristics.
For this one to work, you will want supporting evidence, such as witness testimony or security footage, showing that you were not the perpetrator.
Beating Your Illinois Assault Charge Starts with Finding a Skilled Lawyer
When you’re up against an assault charge, any of these defense strategies may apply – or you may end up using a different argument altogether. Because which strategy is best will depend on the specific circumstances of your case.
That’s why it’s so important to work with a knowledgeable Chicago criminal attorney who has a track record of success in these types of cases. He or she will be able to look at your unique situation and craft a defense most likely to lead to a positive outcome for you. Get started today by reaching out to our office.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.