In Georgia, assault and battery crimes consist of simple assault, aggravated assault, simple battery, battery, and aggravated battery. This article concerns simple assault and battery laws. For information on aggravated assault and aggravated battery, see Georgia Aggravated Assault & Battery Laws.
Simple assault is a misdemeanor in Georgia. The crime is an attempt to cause physical injury to another person – for instance, attempting to strike someone with a hand or object, and missing. Simple 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 knock him out, 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).
The Georgia legislature also has criminalized, as a misdemeanor, any attempt to injure an unborn child. Exceptions include conduct related to an authorized abortion and medical treatment for the pregnant woman or unborn child. (Actually and intentionally harming an unborn child is classified as a battery offense that is also a misdemeanor and has equivalent exceptions.)
(Ga. Code Ann. §§ 16-5-28, 16-5-29).
Simple battery, a misdemeanor, is actual offensive physical contact, such as punching another person or hitting someone with an object. Hitting another person with a fist during an argument or shoving someone are straightforward examples of simple battery. The physical act must be intentional, rather than an accident or a joke among friends, but no specific intent to injure is required. A more unusual example of simple battery is grabbing and ripping someone’s clothing in anger. This is considered a touching because the clothing is an extension of the person.
(Ga. Code Ann. § 16-5-23).
Battery in Georgia involves intentionally causing “substantial physical harm” or “visible bodily harm” and also is a misdemeanor. Visible harm is defined as physical harm visible to others, such as blackened eyes, a swollen lip, or significant bruises.
(Ga. Code Ann. § 16-5-23.1).
Simple assault, simple battery and battery are generally misdemeanor crimes under Georgia law. In certain cases these crimes can be charged as aggravated misdemeanors, which carry more severe penalties. Assault or battery on certain victims including but not limited to, a family member or intimate partner, a person 65 years of age or older, or a public school employee engaged in his duties are aggravated misdemeanors. Assault or battery in a public transit station or vehicle or on public school property, including school buses and school bus stops, are aggravated misdemeanors, as well as battery against a law enforcement officer and battery or simple assault against a pregnant woman.
(Ga. Code Ann. § § 16-5-20, 16-5-23, 16-5-23.1).
For information on aggravated assault and aggravated battery, see Georgia Aggravated Assault & Battery Laws.
The Georgia statutes provide that, if a victim uses “opprobrious or abusive language” against the offender, the language may be considered justification for the offender’s threatening behavior or use of force and, therefore, a defense to the crime of assault or battery. Examples of such language are egregious insults or racial slurs, but the language must rise to a level of abusiveness that justifies the amount or type of force used. If the language is mildly abusive or insulting and the offender reacts with significant violence, the language will not justify the crime committed.
(Ga. Code Ann. § 16-5-25).
A person convicted of a misdemeanor faces the following penalties:
(Ga. Code Ann. § 17-10-3).
The penalties for aggravated misdemeanor are:
(Ga. Code Ann. § 17-10-4).
Someone who is convicted of a second or subsequent battery against the same victim (for example, convicted of battery against a family member one year and then against the same family member again the next year) is subject to enhanced penalties. Eventually, after multiple convictions, that defendant could face a felony charge for a battery.
(Ga. Code. Ann. § 16-5-23.1).
For anyone who is convicted of a second or subsequent assault or simple battery against a family member, or battery against any victim, notice of the conviction must be published in a newspaper in the community in which the offender resides, along with the offender’s mug shot.
(Ga. Code Ann. § 16-5-26).
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 a simple battery case can sentence a defendant to thirty days in jail and eleven months on probation.
A person on probation must meet regularly with a probation officer and comply with conditions set by the court, such as no further 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.
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.
A conviction for a misdemeanor becomes part of your permanent criminal record except in some circumstances. 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 criminal record—even a misdemeanor conviction, and particularly a conviction for a violent crime—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.