In Georgia, assault and battery crimes consist of simple assault, aggravated assault, simple battery, battery, and aggravated battery. Assault in Georgia is an attempt to cause physical injury to another person – for instance, attempting to strike someone with a hand or object, and missing. Assault also is any intentional act or threat of action that reasonably causes a person to feel afraid of impending violence. Threatening to beat up someone or to “break your arm,” when said in a menacing or angry manner, is assault if it appears that the assailant has the ability to carry out the threat and the victim believes or could reasonably believe that he is about to be struck or injured. (Ga. Code Ann. §16-5-20.)
Battery is actual offensive physical contact, such as punching another person or hitting someone with an object. (Ga. Code Ann. §16-16-5-23.) Striking another person with a fist during an argument or pushing someone are straightforward examples of battery.
An aggravated assault, a felony in Georgia, is an assault that is committed:
- with the intent to rob, rape or murder
- with a deadly weapon or any object that can be or is used in a manner that results in serious bodily injury, or
- by discharging a firearm from a vehicle.
A battery becomes an aggravated battery, also a felony in Georgia, if the offender intentionally inflicts a serious injury to the victim, such as loss of a limb, loss of use of a limb, or serious disfigurement.
Serious injury is harm more severe than minor or slight harm, and could include broken bones, a coma, or wounds that require extensive suturing, hospitalization, or surgery.
Serious disfigurement refers to an physical alteration of the body, such as a visible scar on someone’s face or other body part; or a broken bone that alters one’s physical appearance – a broken nose or a finger that is no longer straight.
Penalties for Aggravated Assault and Battery in Georgia
A person convicted of an aggravated assault or aggravated battery faces the following penalties:
- between one year and twenty years in prison (minimum three years for aggravated assault by discharging a firearm from a vehicle)
- probation up to twenty years
- a fine up to $100,000, and
If an offender is guilty of committing an aggravated assault or battery on public transit property or in a public transit vehicle, or against certain victims named in the statute (such as a family member or intimate partner, a person 65 years or older, a law enforcement officer, or a corrections officer), the court must impose a minimum sentence of three, fiv,e or ten years in prison, depending on the victim.
Someone who already has one or more felony conviction) on his criminal record can be required to serve the maximum sentence for aggravated assault or battery because of the prior conviction(s). (Ga. Code Ann. §17-10-4.)
Additional Punishment for Hate Crimes
If an offender commits an assault or battery or any crime against a victim because of bias or prejudice, such as racial or gender bias, the court must impose a more severe penalty than would be normally imposed for the crime (according to court or local policy), but no greater than the maximum sentence permitted under the statute. The offender must serve at least 90% of the sentence before being released. (Offenders serving sentences in jail or prison generally serve less than the sentence imposed because of "good time" credit or early release programs for good beavior.) (Ga. Code Ann.§17-10-17.)
The court can impose probation instead of jail time for the entire sentence, or after the defendant has spent some time in jail. For instance, a judge in an aggravated battery case can sentence a defendant to three years in jail and two years on probation.
A person on probation must meet regularly with a probation officer and follow all conditions set by the court, such as no additional arrests or convictions, attending counseling or performing community service. If a person violates a condition of probation, he can be arrested and required to serve the remainder or a remaining part of his sentence in jail.
Anyone convicted of assault or battery in Georgia can be required to pay restitution, which means reimbursing the victim for any expenses resulting from the crime, such as the cost of medical treatment or counseling.
Pleas and Pre-Trial Options
If you are facing a charge of assault or battery in Georgia, an attorney can investigate the case and determine if you were wrongfully charged or there are other reasons why the case should be dismissed before trial. If the charges are not dismissed, an attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor on your behalf, or prepare a defense and represent you at trial if you believe you have been wrongly accused or if there are no reasonable plea options. Prosecutors often will negotiate and agree to let the defendant plead guilty to a different, less serious crime. Or, the prosecutor may agree to a lighter sentence, such as probation, in exchange for a plea of guilty to the charge.
The Value of Good Representation
A felony conviction will seriously impact your life. A convicted felon loses the right to vote, hold public office, serve as a juror (for seven years) and carry or own firearms. In certain circumstances, a felony conviction also can result in loss of a professional license. If a felon is convicted later of another crime, his felony record can subject him to a harsher sentence in the new case. A felony conviction and particularly a conviction for a violent crime—also can hurt you when you are looking for a job or applying to rent a house or apartment.
Only someone familiar with the local criminal court system and cases like yours will know how good your chances are for a favorable outcome in court or at the negotiating table. A knowledgeable attorney will take all of this into consideration, assist you in making decisions about your case, and protect your rights.