Defending DC Simple Assault Charges

Even though simple assault charges are only misdemeanors the maximum punishment for a conviction is 180 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. The court is legally allowed to sentence you to the maximum punishment if the court feels that it is appropriate. Additionally, a conviction for simple assault would reflect a violent offense on your criminal record, thereby making it in your best interest to contact a DC simple assault lawyer to evaluate your case and prepare a defense.

Steps of a Simple Assault Case

Most simple assault cases begin with an arrest. The arrestee is taken to the closest police district in D.C. where the arrest is officially recorded. The arrestee may be given a future date to appear in court and may be required to sign a notice promising to appear in court on that specific date. Being “released on citation” refers to the arrestee being released from the police station on his or her personal promise to appear in court for the arraignment. If the arrestee is not released from jail, then the arrestee will be scheduled to appear before a judge, either the day of the arrest or the day after.

Arraignment is the very first court appearance where the defendant is read the charges that have been filed by the government against him or her. The judge at the arraignment will decide whether the defendant will either be released or detained until the defendant’s next scheduled court appearance.

In simple assault cases, it is common for the government to request that the defendant have no contact with the alleged victim as a condition of the defendant’s release. The case is scheduled for a future date where a specific judge will be assigned to the case.

What Must be Proven

At trial, the prosecution must prove that the defendant committed a voluntary act with the intent to harm another person and that, at the time the defendant committed the act, he had the apparent ability to injure the other person.

With that said, every defendant in a criminal case is presumed to be innocent until the prosecution proves every element of the criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt.

Evidence in Simple Assault Cases

Testimony of witnesses is considered evidence and is commonly used by the prosecution for simple assault cases. This includes the testimony of the alleged victim or the testimony of witnesses to the incident, or both. Video evidence may also be used if the incident occurred in an establishment that maintains surveillance cameras. For example, it is common for restaurants, bars, and other establishments open to the public to maintain surveillance footage.

What Makes It Possible to Challenge These Types of Evidence?

Witness testimony can be disputed in a defense for simple assault. Many times, the environment surrounding an assault or simple assault will involve large crowds, alcohol, and/or drugs. A witness’s credibility can be challenged when he or she was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time that the incident occurred.

Common Defenses

A claim of self-defense is a common defense to a charge of simple assault. The defense must show that there was an actual or apparent threat and that the threat was unlawful and immediate.

Additionally, the defendant must honestly and reasonably believe that he was in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm and the defense must claim that the defendant’s response was necessary to save him or her from the danger.

Pre-Trial Steps To Take

Sometimes the government will offer different types of diversion programs to defendants charged with simple assault. The purpose of these diversion programs is to enhance a fair and efficient criminal justice system. The programs might also be beneficial to a person charged with a simple assault because it ultimately results in the dismissal of the criminal case.

Diversion is typically structured as an agreement between the government and the defendant where the government agrees to dismiss the case if the defendant successfully completes certain terms. Terms could include community service, complying with a curfew, or staying away from an alleged victim.