An assault charge is a very serious matter. If you are convicted, you could face severe penalties, as well as being left with a permanent criminal record of a violent crime – something that will compromise employment prospects, loans, housing, child custody, and more.
Importantly, to be charged with assault in Illinois, no physical harm or even contact is necessary. Assault is rather based upon the intent or attempt to cause physical harm without justification.
The appropriate defense for your assault case will depend upon the circumstances surrounding the alleged assault, but most assault defenses are focused upon the intent and its justification.
It is generally accepted that individuals have the right to defend themselves against a reasonable threat of unlawful bodily harm. Therefore, self-defense is one of the most common defenses for assault.
To make a good case for self-defense, you must provide evidence that you were under threat or a reasonably perceived threat of unlawful bodily harm or physical force. Ideally, you should also be able to prove that you had no reasonable ability to evade or escape the situation, and that physical action was necessary to protect your safety. Evidence of the other party’s intent of bodily harm or physical force, as well as your lack of intent, such as witness statements, will be helpful.
Any prior record of assault and battery or provocation will be harmful to a self-defense case. A prior offense demonstrates a history of violence against others, meaning that self-defense is a less plausible explanation for any present assault charges you are facing.
Defense of others
Defense of others is similar to self-defense, differing only in that your alleged actions were to defend another party against a perceived threat of unlawful force or bodily harm.
Defense of others has similar limitations to self-defense. In a defense of others case, a witness statement from the party under threat of harm may be helpful.
Coercion or duress
If you were coerced by another individual into committing assault, a coercion or duress defense may be appropriate. To effectively use a coercion defense, you must provide evidence of the use or threat of physical force from another party that would have driven you, or another reasonable person, to commit the crime.
In some cases, the victim of an alleged assault may wrongly identify his or her assailant. Because an assault is a traumatic event that could even involve memory-impairing injuries, misidentification is plausible. So if you have been wrongly accused by the alleged victim, a misidentification defense may be appropriate.
If you were not anywhere near the scene of the alleged assault when it took place and can provide an alibi, it may be possible to get the charges dropped, or if the case goes to trial, to be acquitted.
Remember, an assault is a serious matter, and can often result in felony-level charges. If you or someone you care about are currently facing an assault charge, it is imperative to involve a skilled criminal defense attorney as early in the process as possible.
A good attorney can ensure that your rights are protected during the investigation and questioning, and may even be able get your case thrown out before formal charges are pressed. Should your case go to trial, a knowledgeable lawyer can also build the best possible defense, maximizing your chance of a favorable outcome.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.