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SC Assault & Battery Charges: 1st, 2nd, 3rd Degree
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SC Assault & Battery Charges: 1st, 2nd, 3rd Degree

Sometimes situations get out of hand quickly. Joking around can escalate to an argument. An argument can turn into a fight. And a fight can turn into an arrest (and possibly jail time) for assault and battery.

If you’ve been charged with assault and battery in South Carolina, you need to know what's going to happen next, and the potential consequences you're facing so you can decide if you need help from a defense attorney.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking a guilty plea will make everything go away as quickly as possible. Assault convictions carry serious consequences, and you want to know you’ve exhausted all other options before pleading guilty.

First,​ let’s talk about the charges being brought against you.

Charges for assault and battery (also known simply as "assault") are divided into three degrees:

Each degree has its own definition and set of consequences.

Assault and battery, 1st degree

First degree charges are the most serious of the three. In order for a charge to meet this level, a few factors need to be present. Great bodily injury must result or be likely to result. Additionally, the act must either:

  • "Involve nonconsensual touching of the private parts of a person, either under or above clothing, with lewd and lascivious intent”; OR
  • "Occur during the commission of a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft."

The next level down for assault and battery charges is 2nd degree.

Assault and battery, 2nd degree

To garner a 2nd degree charge, one of these two conditions must be met:

  • "Moderate bodily injury resulted or could have resulted;” OR
  • “The act involves the nonconsensual touching of the private parts of a person, either under or above clothing."

As you can see, the severity of an injury or potential injury impacts the degree of the charge. The legal definitions for the different degrees use “great bodily injury” and “moderate bodily injury” to distinguish severity.

Here are what those terms mean:

  • Great bodily injury is an injury causing "a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ." (SC Code of Laws 16-3-600(A)(1))
  • Moderate bodily injury is a "physical injury that involves prolonged loss of consciousness, or that causes temporary or moderate disfigurement or temporary loss of the function of a bodily member or organ, or injury that requires medical treatment when the treatment requires the use of regional or general anesthesia or injury that results in a fracture or dislocation. Moderate bodily injury does not include one-time treatment and subsequent observation of scratches, cuts, abrasions, bruises, burns, splinters, or any other minor injuries that do not ordinarily require extensive medical care." (SC Code of Laws 16-3-600(A)(2))

Unlike 1st and 2nd degree assault and battery, 3rd degree assault and battery does not require "great" or "moderate" bodily injury.

Assault and battery, 3rd degree

A 3rd degree assault is often called “simple assault.” This charge means one person injures or attempts to illegally injure another person. For attempts to injure, the prosecution must prove the defendant had the ability to cause injury.

Even though a simple assault sounds minor compared to the 1st and 2nd degree charges, the penalties for any of these charges cannot be ignored.

Penalties for Assault and Battery

The penalties for assault and battery charges are no joke. South Carolina takes these charges seriously.

Degree Felony or Misdemeanor Penalties
1st Felony Up to 10 years in jail
2nd Misdemeanor Up to three years in jail and/or a fine up to $2,500
3rd Misdemeanor Up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine up to $500

Now that you have a basic understanding of assault and battery charges in SC, let's address a few commonly asked questions.

Frequently asked questions about assault and battery

1. Can assault charges be dropped by the victim?

Sometimes the victim decides he or she wants to "drop" the charges. Well, it isn't quite that simple. The prosecutor decides whether or not a case is dropped. Just because the victim says the charges should go away doesn’t mean the prosecutor has to make that happen. When the State decides to file charges, the victim isn't in control of the case. The solicitor is the person deciding what happens in your prosecution.

2. Can assault charges be dismissed?

Assault charges can be dismissed in some cases. The most common circumstances for dismissing assault charges are when...

  • the victim wants the charges dropped,
  • the defense attorney finds something wrong with how the police or prosecution obtained or handled evidence;
  • or the prosecutor finds there was mutual combat or self defense.

3. How can I beat an assault charge?

Assault charges can be beat, but only with the help of an experienced attorney. The police do make mistakes, and an attorney can help to find them and hopefully use them in your favor.

4. Are assault charges felonies?

Some assault charges are felonies, and some aren't. First degree charges are felonies. Second and 3rd degree charges are misdemeanors.

5. Does an assault charge go on your record?

Yes. Just as with other criminal convictions, an assault charge will appear on your record. Since assault charges can follow you and affect your future, it's very important to contact an experienced attorney to help you through it.

Discuss your case right away

If you’re facing an assault charge, consider speaking with an attorney right away. Prosecutors may be strategizing about your case at this very minute, so you need a lawyer on your side doing the same thing.

Contact Lori Murray at 803-779-4472, or complete this online form to schedule a consultation.

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