Assault charges must be treated seriously, no matter their origin. Whether you were acting in self-defense or not, addressing these charges is extremely important, as a conviction can carry serious consequences. In Maryland, there are two major types of assault charges, those in the first degree and those in the second. Let’s take a closer look at being charged with Assault in Westminster, MD.
Maryland Assault Charges
Assault refers to an intentional act that causes a person to fear that they will suffer physical harm. It doesn't always involve physical contact; the threat or perception of harm is sufficient for an assault charge.
In Maryland, there are two main types of assault: first-degree and second-degree assault.
First-degree assault is considered a more serious offense. It involves causing or attempting to cause serious physical injury to another person intentionally.
Serious physical injury refers to injuries that pose a substantial risk of death or that cause permanent or protracted disfigurement, loss, or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ. Additionally, using a firearm during the commission of the assault can also elevate the charge to first-degree assault, regardless of the actual injury caused.
First-degree assault is considered a felony offense, punishable by a maximum prison sentence of up to 25 years upon conviction. In cases involving the use of a firearm during the commission of the assault, there are mandatory minimum sentences that might apply. Fines can also accompany the prison sentence, the amount of which is determined by the court.
On the other hand, second-degree assault involves causing or attempting to cause physical harm to another person intentionally. Unlike first-degree assault, this type of assault does not require the specific intent to cause serious physical injury; rather, it involves actions that cause or attempt to cause offensive physical contact or harm. Second-degree assault might include punching, shoving, or other actions that cause physical harm or the fear of harm.
Second-degree assault is classified as a misdemeanor in Maryland. Upon conviction, a person charged with second-degree assault might face a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Fines are also possible upon conviction, and the amount can be determined by the court based on the circumstances of the case.
Imminent Danger and Assault
Calling someone on the phone and threatening them with bodily harm is not likely to qualify for assault charges because the threat of danger isn’t imminent. Threatening someone in person, on the other hand, implies imminent danger, and thus may qualify. The nature of assault and battery charges are such that physical injury has either occurred or almost certainly will occur. This definition, due to its vague nature, can be interpreted in many different ways. That is to say, there are scenarios that may happen in a tense situation that you might not realize are assault until it’s too late.
The important thing to remember when dealing with the topic of assault is that the perpetrator’s intent was to cause harm, irrelevant to whether or not it actually occurred.
What is Reckless Endangerment?
Reckless endangerment in Maryland refers to engaging in conduct that creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury or death to another person. It involves recklessly disregarding the potential consequences of one's actions, and the behavior poses a significant risk to the safety of others.
Some key aspects of reckless endangerment in Maryland include:
- Conduct with Risk: The individual's conduct must present a substantial risk of harm to another person or people. This can include actions like reckless driving, handling firearms irresponsibly, or other behaviors that create a risk of injury or death.
- Reckless Behavior: Recklessness is a crucial element, indicating that the person acted with a conscious disregard for the potential harm their actions could cause.
Upon conviction, the potential penalties may include a maximum prison sentence of up to 5 years, fines imposed by the court, probation or community service, and other court-mandated measures or conditions.
Legal Defenses Against Assault Charges
In Maryland, various legal defenses can be used to challenge assault charges. These defenses aim to cast doubt on the prosecution's case or demonstrate that the accused's actions were justified or lacked the necessary intent.
Some common defenses against assault charges include:
- Self-Defense: Individuals have the right to defend themselves from imminent harm. If the accused reasonably believed that they were in immediate danger of being harmed and used appropriate force to protect themselves, self-defense can be a valid legal defense.
- Defense of Others: Similar to self-defense, if the accused reasonably believed that another person was in imminent danger and used necessary force to protect that person, this defense can be applicable.
- Defense of Property: While the use of force to protect property is limited, individuals may use reasonable force to defend their property under certain circumstances. However, this defense can be complex and depends on various factors.
- Lack of Intent: Assault charges often require proof of intent to cause harm. If the accused can demonstrate that they did not intend to harm the alleged victim or that their actions were accidental, this defense might be viable.
- Consent: In some situations, particularly in cases of contact sports or consensual fights, proving that the alleged victim consented to the physical contact can serve as a defense against assault charges.
- False Accusation or Mistaken Identity: Sometimes, individuals are wrongfully accused, or mistaken identity leads to false charges. Providing evidence that contradicts the accuser's claims or establishing an alibi can be a defense strategy.
- Defense of Public Duty: Certain professionals, like law enforcement officers, may use force in the course of their duties. If the accused can prove that their actions were within the scope of their lawful duties, it might serve as a defense.
These defenses can be complex and their applicability depends on the specific circumstances of each case. Consulting with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney at Albers & Associates is crucial to determining the most suitable defense strategy based on the facts of the case.
Whether you’ve been the victim of an assault or you’ve perpetrated one, you need the aid of a legal professional on your side. Contact Albers & Associates to set up a free consultation to discuss the nature of your circumstances.