Assault might commonly be understood as “beating up” somebody, but it can be triggered by intentionally wreaking relatively modest physical injury on someone. In order to make out a crime, in New York, the level of physical injury does have to meet a threshold level, but that level is not massive. Generally, a defense of self-defense or justification is available to someone who otherwise committed the crime of assault, but did so in his own defense or in the defense of another, or in certain cases, in the defense of property. Misdemeanor assault is usually called assault in the third degree.
Misdemeanor assault is the lowest level of assault which is the result of striking a person also known as simple assault/battery. Simple assault may include physically attacking, pushing, or slapping another person in a heated argument, or engaging in threatening or intimidating behavior, such as raising a fist and moving toward the victim in a menacing manner. Any other type of assault is aggravated assault and carry different penalties.
Misdemeanor assault charges New York can result in serious penalties and consequences if convicted. Assault in the third degree is a class A misdemeanor which includes a maximum penalty of one year in jail and fines of up to $1,000. The judge in a misdemeanor case has discretion to sentence the defendant accordingly. For misdemeanors, defendants often also have the option of performing community service, participating in criminal education programs, or being on house arrest rather than serving time in jail.
The defenses in assault cases can vary widely depending on the facts and circumstances, mainly because such cases can range from the straight-forward to the extremely complex. Here are some defense against misdemeanor assault:
• Self-defense: Self-defense is probably the most common defense used in assault and battery cases. The defendant can argue that they used force against the victim to defend themselves. The defendant must however provide that there was a threat of force against them, perceived fear of harm, and no possible avenue of escape or retreat. The force used in self-defense must be reasonable when compared to the threat posed by the victim.
• Defense of others: This defense is very similar to that of self-defense, with the only difference being that the individual must have an honest and real perceived fear of harm to another person. The limitations that apply to self-defense apply similarly to defending others, and the accused must have had reasonable grounds for their perceived fear in order to establish this defense.
• Defense of Property: A defendant in an assault/battery case may be able to claim that he acted only in defense of his or her property against being invaded or illegally withheld. This defense generally allows for an individual to use reasonable force in defense of their property, particularly where a person's own home is involved.
In the federal criminal system, an assault is an attempt to hit another person or an act that causes someone to reasonably expect impending harm. Certain assaults are federal offenses simply because of where they take place such as on United States property. Attacks that occur on the grounds of a national park, at a federal prison, or on board a United States ship, among other places, are federal assault crimes.
In 2014, NFL player Greg Hardy was charged with assaulting his then girlfriend Nicole Holder. She claimed that Hardy tossed her against a tiled wall, thrown her on a futon and choked her. Upon his arrest, Hardy was forced to turn over 10 guns. During this time, Hardy was on the exempt list following his conviction of this crime. On appeal, he was found not guilty and settled this case out of court.