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Understanding Assault and Battery Charges in South Carolina

Understanding Assault and Battery Charges in South CarolinaAny dispute or altercation that involves physical touching or an attempt to touch someone can lead to assault charges. South Carolina has different levels of assault charges that depend on a few factors. These factors include the severity of the injury the victim suffers, where and how the victim was touched, and whether the assault was in combination with another crime such as robbery or burglary. The penalties increase if you have a prior record and if a deadly weapon was involved.

Generally, the more serious assault crimes include the lesser charges with additional factors, which means you can face multiple charges for alleged incident. Many plea negotiations include dropping the more serious charges and pleading to a lesser offense. Today, we offer more information on the offenses by explaining the specific conduct necessary to be charged with each category of assault. We also explain some of the defenses in more detail including self-defense.

Definitions of “great bodily injury,” “moderate bodily injury,” and “private parts.”

In order to understand how assault crimes are classified, it is necessary to understand a few legal terms. According to South Carolina statute, Section 16-3-600, the terms that apply to the part of the body that is touched include:

  • Great bodily injury. This term means bodily injury that causes a substantial risk of death. Great bodily injury also includes “serious, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ.” For example, if you cause someone to walk with a limp for the rest of their life or have a facial scar that can’t be repaired with plastic surgery, those injuries are considered a “great bodily injury.
  • Moderate bodily injury. This term refers to a physical injury that involves:
    • Prolonged loss of consciousness
    • Temporary or moderate disfigurement
    • Temporary loss of the function of a bodily member or organ
    • Any injury where the medical treatment requires using regional or general anesthesia
    • An injury that results in a fracture or dislocation.

It helps to understand what types of contact do not result in a “moderate bodily injury. Any injuries that do not normally require extensive medical care such as cuts, bruises, splinters, and scratches are not considered moderate bodily injuries.

  • Private parts. This term refers to “the genital area or buttocks of a male or female or the breasts of a female.”

Assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature

This is the most serious type of assault and battery charge. A defendant can be charged with an assault of a high and aggravated nature if the defendant hurts someone causing that person a great bodily injury – and conduct that caused the injuries was “likely to produce death or great bodily injury.”

A conviction will result in a felony criminal record and imprisonment for up to 20 years. This offense is a lesser-included offense for attempted murder.

First-degree assault and battery charges in South Carolina

This criminal offense requires that the person charged unlawfully:

  • Injures another person – providing that the conduct:
    • Involves nonconsensual touching of the private parts of a person, either under or above clothing, with lewd and lascivious intent.
    • Happened while the accused was committing a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft.
  • “Offers” or tries to injure someone with the current ability to do so and the conduct involves:
    • A method that is likely to cause death or great bodily injury
    • Happened while the accused was committing a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft.

A first-degree assault and battery is a felony. A conviction can result in imprisonment for up to 10 years. This offense is a lesser offense for attempted murder and for an assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.

Second-degree assault and battery charges in South Carolina

This offense is generally similar to a first-degree assault charge except that it applies when a person suffers a moderate bodily injury or when moderate bodily injury could have occurred. The statute includes the same conduct involving nonconsensual touching of private parts – except that there is no requirement of a “lewd and lascivious intent.” The statute for a second-degree assault also does not consider the commission of other crimes.

This offense is a misdemeanor that can result in imprisonment of up to three years and/or a $2,500 fine. The offense is a lesser-include offense for the other offenses mentioned above.

Simple assault in the third-degree

This offense requires that the accused “unlawfully injure another person, or offers or attempts to injure another person with the present ability to do so.” The crime is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or up to $500 in fines.

What defenses may apply to an assault charge?

Self-defense is often raised as a defense in assault cases. The force you use to defend yourself must be proportional to the force of the attacker. You may be able to raise a self-defense defense if you were helping someone else who was attacked provided you used proportional force.

In some cases, you may be able to argue consent, that you were required to use force due to duress, or that there was a legal necessity.

We also assert any Constitutional rights that apply including the right not to incriminate yourself. We hold the prosecution to its burden to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

At Holland Law LLC, I’ve been fighting for defendants in York, Lancaster, and Chester Counties for years. I also worked in a prosecutor’s role which means I understand when they may consider dropping charges or negotiating a plea – and when they won’t.

I have a strong record of success obtaining dismissals of criminal charges, suppressing illegal evidence, and obtaining acquittals. In many cases, I am able to negotiate the criminal charges to a less serious offense. As soon as you’ve been arrested, call my office Fort Mill office on Gold Hill Road, or in our Rock Hill office on Oakland Avenue. Call 803-219-2630, or complete my contact page to schedule an appointment.