An assault under Illinois law occurs when a person knowingly acts without legal authority in a way that puts another person in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery. 720 ILCS 5/12-1. This is also called a simple assault. A battery occurs when a person intentionally and knowingly causes another bodily harm, or causes physical contact of a provocative or insulting nature by any means. 720 ILCS 5/12-3.
Despite the use of the word apprehension in the definition of assault, for an assault to occur, the person being assaulted does not necessarily have to be afraid of the person committing the assault. The victim only has to reasonably fear, that is, think or believe that a battery is about to occur. So a larger or seemingly stronger person can be in fear of battery from a smaller or seemingly weaker person.
Your Chicago assault defense attorney can explain that, during a prosecution for assault, the victim does not have to personally testify to prove the “apprehension of a battery” part of an assault charge. The judge or jury can reasonably infer that the victim was in apprehension of a battery based on the facts of the case. People v. Harkey,69 Ill. App. 3d 94 (1979).
Examples of assault include a person raising a fist at another person, or threatening someone with a weapon such as a gun. The use of a gun or another deadly weapon is defined as aggravated assault, and is a much more severe offense than simple assault. In addition, if a person tries to hit another person but misses, this conduct can be enough for an assault charge. Threatening a person with words alone is often not enough for an assault charge, but this may depend on the particular facts of a case.Defense to Assault Charges
The defenses that are available in a battery case can sometimes be used in an assault case. For example, if you were defending yourself or your property by threatening to hit someone, you may argue that you were acting in self-defense. The facts of your particular case may also provide a good defense to an assault charge. If you did something, such as throw a punch to hit someone, but the person you tried to hit did not see you throw the punch, it is unlikely that you can be charged with assault. Because assault relies on the victim’s apprehension of an impending battery, the victim has to see the punch coming. In other words, the victim cannot be in fear of being hit if the victim does not expect it. An experienced criminal defense attorney can better advise you as to the best defense to use in your particular case.
The prosecution bears the burden of proving the accused knowingly committed the act of assault or aggravated assault for a successful conviction. For these reasons, there are several defenses available to someone accused of assault or aggravated assault. These include defense of property, self-defense or defense of another person, and lack of reasonable apprehension about the impending battery.
- Defense of property – depending on the laws of the state in which the case is governed, an accused may claim that he or she acted in defense of his or her property against being illegally withheld or invaded.
- Self-defense – perhaps the most common defense, an accused must establish that a threat or unlawful force or harm occurred against him or her; a real, honest and reasonable perception of harm existed; no harm or provocation occurred due to his or her actions; and there was no reasonable chance of retreating or escaping the situation.
- Defense of another – similar to self-defense, the individual must have an honest and real perception of fear or harm to another and must have reasonable grounds for this belief.
Assault is a class C misdemeanor in Illinois. 720 ILCS 5/12-1(c). As a class C misdemeanor, the maximum amount of time a defendant may be sentenced to is 30 days, and a fine of up to $1,500. The judge may also require the defendant to perform up to 100 hours of community service. Probation may be imposed for up to two years and restitution may be required.
Punishment varies, depending on whether or not the accused has a prior criminal record. It also depends if you are charged with Felony Aggravated Assault.
Generally, penalties for Misdemeanor Assault and Felony Aggravated Assault could range between the following:
- Up to one year of imprisonment and a fine of up to $2,500;
- Between two and five years of imprisonment plus monetary fines;
- Between three and six years of imprisonment plus monetary fines.