Under Mississippi law, a person commits an assault if he:
- attempts to physically injure another person
- intentionally or recklessly causes physical injury to another
- negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon, or
- threatens another person, causing that person to feel afraid that he is about to suffer serious physical injury. (Miss. Code Ann. §97-3-7.)
A reckless act is one that is committed, not necessarily with intent to harm another, but without regard for the outcome. Pushing someone out of the way in a crowd so that you can get through, without intending to injure the person, could be an assault if the person falls and is injured. A negligent act is one that is not intentional but occurs because the actor fails to exercise reasonable care. An accidental shooting can be a negligent assault if it results from a person not being careful enough when handling or firing a gun.
The physical injury involved in a simple assault must be a minor injury like a cut, scrape and bruise. If the offender causes more serious injury, such as a broken bone or an injury that requires surgery or hospitalization, the crime is an aggravated assault, which is a more serious offense than simple assault. For information on this crime and assault with a deadly weapon, see Aggravated Assault in Mississippi.
A person who is convicted of simple assault in Mississippi can be sentenced to up to six months in jail or a $500 fine, or both.
Simple Assault Against Certain Victims
Simple assault in Mississippi is a misdemeanor unless it is committed against certain victims designated in the statute. Mississippi law designates several “special” victims. They include but are not limited to:
- a legislator or other elected official
- law enforcement officer, corrections officer or firefighter
- emergency medical personnel
- social workers or family protection workers employed by the Human Services Department
- public school administrators or teachers
- judges or certain court employees, and
- a person over the age of 64 and an incapacitated or disabled adult.
If a special victim is designated by his employment status, he must be performing his duties as an employee at the time of the assault. Simple assault against one of these special victims is a felony in Mississippi and punishable by up to five years in prison or a fine up to $1,000.
Intentional assault against pregnant woman
When a simple assault is an intentional assault committed against a pregnant woman and the offender knew of the pregnancy, the offender is subject to the following penalties:
- if the assault causes the victim to suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth, up to 20 years in prison or a fine up to $7,500 or both
- if the assault causes serious injury to the fetus or embryo, up to 20 years in prison or a fine up to $5,000 or both, and
- if the assault causes minor injury to the fetus or embryo, up to six months in jail or a fine up to $1,000 or both. (Miss. Code. Ann. §97-3-37.)
Simple domestic violence
Simple assault committed against a spouse, a family member who resides or previously resided with the offender, or someone whom the offender is dating is simple domestic violence and can subject the offender to higher penalties under certain circumstances. For information about the crime of domestic violence in Mississippi, see Criminal Domestic Violence Laws in Mississippi.
A person convicted of simple assault in Mississippi can be required to pay restitution up to $5,000, which involves reimbursing the victim for any expenses resulting from the crime, such as the cost of medical treatment or counseling or repair or replacement of damaged property. (Miss. Code Ann. §97-37-3.)
Suspended Sentence, Remand and Probation
A court in Mississippi can impose a "remand" or a suspended sentence and probation for simple assault. On a remand, the court does not impose jail or prison time, but imposes certain conditions on the defendant such as probation, counseling or other treatment, or community service. At the end of the remand period, if the defendant satisfies the conditions and completes the period without further criminal activity or arrests, the case is dismissed. The arrest and dismissal will be part of the defendant’s criminal record.
For a suspended sentence, the court can suspend all or a portion of the jail or prison sentence as long as the defendant successfully completes probation and any other conditions the court imposes. A person on supervised probation must meet with a probation officer and comply with conditions of probation such as treatment, maintaining employment and avoiding any further criminal activity or arrests.
Pleas and Pre-Trial Options
If you are facing a charge of simple assault in Mississippi, you'll benefit from having an attorney 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 may negotiate and agree to a lighter sentence in exchange for a guilty plea or to the defendant pleading guilty to a different, less serious crime.
The Value of Good Representation
A conviction for simple assault – even a misdemeanor – becomes part of your permanent criminal record. If you are convicted later of another crime, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case. 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. A conviction for a violent crime – misdemeanor or felony – 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.