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Dario D.
01-18-2007, 06:46 AM
I was just wondering if anyone knows what the punishment would be for assaulting a woman, in the United States.

The situation in the story is that a young man beats up a girl about his age, breaking several bones, after finding out that she assaulted his sister. After doing something like that, can you expect the police to be on your doorstep within minutes? And, if so, what kind of jail-time are you looking at? Is it something that would go to court?

Thanks. I'm trying to figure out what the natural consequences for such a thing would be. I want the character to go to prison with a multi-year sentence, but have to attend court in the first few weeks. But, first, I just have to see if all that can happen.

Rabe
01-18-2007, 09:45 AM
I was just wondering if anyone knows what the punishment would be for assaulting a woman, in the United States.

The situation in the story is that a young man beats up a girl about his age, breaking several bones, after finding out that she assaulted his sister. After doing something like that, can you expect the police to be on your doorstep within minutes? And, if so, what kind of jail-time are you looking at? Is it something that would go to court?

Thanks. I'm trying to figure out what the natural consequences for such a thing would be. I want the character to go to prison with a multi-year sentence, but have to attend court in the first few weeks. But, first, I just have to see if all that can happen.

Where is your story set?

In Nevada there is a difference between 'battery' and 'assault' (the former is what your situation falls under).

Most likely the charge would be 'battery with substantial bodily damage' which is a felony and could have mutli-year prison term. But as for going to court within a few weeks? Bloody unlikely!

In my neck of the woods (Nevada, of course) it would be 7-10 business days before formal charges are filed (unless arrested on a warrant) then another couple weeks before the arraignment, then another couple weeks for the prelim and then it gets kicked upstairs (as it's a felony and all the rest of this has gone on in justice court) where the prelim stage happens again. Preliminary hearings can be waived to speed up the other parts...but from arrest to conviction in a couple weeks?

It is to laugh.

As for the police on the doorstep in a matter of minutes? That also depends. Do you need to have your character arrested quickly? If so, the best bet is to have the police arrive at the scene shortly after the beating. There's always the possibility of the report being submitted to the DA's office for consideration of charges. If the DA wants to pursue it further they'll issue a warrant.

Rabe...

BradyH1861
01-19-2007, 06:19 AM
If by chance your story is set in Texas, I can walk you through the process. However, I don't pretend to know anything about how other states do things.


Brady

Vanatru
01-19-2007, 06:30 AM
Of course, there is the matter of proof of assault. Sure, she can have bruises and broken bones, but if there's nothing to connect it to the attacker.....as Richard Marx would say, "...it don't mean nothing." Back home, they won't charge or arrest without proof.

Sandi LeFaucheur
01-19-2007, 02:57 PM
Or they could always go on Judge Judy.

ideagirl
01-19-2007, 08:23 PM
a young man beats up a girl about his age, breaking several bones, after finding out that she assaulted his sister. After doing something like that, can you expect the police to be on your doorstep within minutes? And, if so, what kind of jail-time are you looking at? Is it something that would go to court?

As Rabe pointed out, the legal definition of "assault" is different than the normal definition of "assault." What you're describing--actually physically injuring someone--is "battery," in legal terms (as in battering a person, a battered wife etc.). Legally speaking, assault is scaring someone by making them think you're about to hurt them; battery is actually hurting them. So, generally people who commit this crime are charged with assault and battery, because they do both (merely raising your fist like you're about to hit someone is assault, if you're doing it in a way that would make a reasonable person think you really were about to hit them).

So it sounds like what you've got there is assault and battery. Given how badly hurt the girl was, maybe it's aggravated assault and battery, I don't know--the exact definitions depend on state law. It could even be attempted homicide, if she's hurt badly enough or he purposely inflicted injuries on vulnerable places (e.g. kicking her in the head...). Do you have a law school anywhere near you? Most law school libraries are at least in part open to the public (i.e. the public can come do legal research, though they can't check out books), so you could go ask the librarian (who is not a lawyer but is knowledgable in law) for help with this question.

He could indeed go to prison for a multi-year sentence; it's hard for me to imagine any place that wouldn't treat that kind of crime as a felony. (A "felony" is a serious crime, defined in most states as any crime that COULD BE punished with more than one year in jail. People charged with felonies are sometimes sentenced to less than one year in jail, like if there are mitigating factors, but the fact that the crime COULD be punished with a year or more means it's a felony. So keep that in mind--after a conviction on this charge, this guy is a convicted felon: he can't vote, can't own a gun, etc.) He could also get a heavier sentence if he's got a history of criminality; judges take that into account in sentencing.

Also keep in mind that most run of the mill, non-famous cases end in plea deals. That means the prosecutor bargains with the defense attorney: "I'm charging him with [a whole bunch of different crimes, the worst stuff possible under the circumstances], so your client is looking at 12 to 15 years. But I'm willing to drop it to [lesser crimes], which would give him only 3 to 5, if he pleads guilty." In the case you've described, the prosecutor might threaten to charge the guy with attempted murder but then offer to make it assault and battery if the guy pleads guilty.

ideagirl
01-19-2007, 08:30 PM
Of course, there is the matter of proof of assault. Sure, she can have bruises and broken bones, but if there's nothing to connect it to the attacker.....as Richard Marx would say, "...it don't mean nothing." Back home, they won't charge or arrest without proof.

I don't know where "back home" is, but that's not how it works in the overwhelming majority of the United States. (I would say "the entire United States," but who knows, maybe there's an exception in some place or another.) Even though identifications by eyewitnesses and victims are notoriously unreliable, they are enough to get a person charged, unless the person ID'd (i.e. the suspect) has a hell of a good alibi. I mean, look at the Duke University lacrosse-team rape case that's going on right now: that's a really extreme example of the lengths prosecutors will go to--it's extreme because there is ABSOLUTELY NO physical evidence linking any of the men charged to the rape; it's also a really weird case because the victim keeps changing her story, but that's another issue. My point is just that, if a crime victim says "so and so did this to me," so and so is going to be visited by the police ASAP, with or without physical evidence.

Most crimes don't have DNA evidence. Most crimes have little or no physical evidence definitively linking the accused to the accuser. Witness testimony can be enough--it's not always enough, but sometimes it is--not only to get someone charged, but to get someone convicted. If you look up "Innocence Project," the nonprofit legal project dedicated to getting wrongly convicted people out of jail, you'll find scores of cases where some poor sucker got convicted based on witness and/or victim testimony, then had to wait 20 years for technology to advance to the point where it became possible to prove that the guy did NOT commit the crime.

Vanatru
01-19-2007, 09:41 PM
Back home for me is in Florida. Seminole/Orange county. Thankfully not near Duke U.

I can only talk about things from personal expeirence. :)

I recall when working abuse and/or battery calls........didn't matter if John or Jane Doe said Ricky Slick beat them down. It was still just one persons word against anothers. Sure, an officer or deputy will respond to the call, but that's policy. If their was no physical proof outside of the complaintants word, or multiple witnesses, then someone may or may not have gotten locked up. They could always write statements and have 'em forward on to either the local or state DA, but that in itself didn't mean much.

Other places may be different, and that's fine. This goes back to that CSI type thread. You can write something and make it sound crediable to the general public, but it may sound hokey to the "professionals" from another area.

Kinda like that tv show "Cops". It's good fun and all, but some things they do in other states, wouldn't fly here.

I'm not saying an arrest without proof wouldn't work, I just haven't seen it that often. Heck, it might leave the accussed an opening for a legal suit after the charges are dropped from lack of evidence. A new twist to the story. :)

-Bill

BradyH1861
01-20-2007, 07:16 AM
Here is something to ponder. Under Texas criminal law, there is no such thing as battery. An assault is either placing a person in a reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm or actually causing said harm. (That isn't an exact quote from the Penal Code, but it is close enough) As far as punishments go, it ranges all the way from a Class C Misdemeanor (our lowest charge) through a Felony of the 1st Degree (if aggravated...ie: use or display of deadly weapon or causing serious bodily injury). So it is a rather broad range of offenses here.

I'm not sure about other states, but I think that most separate assault and battery into two separate offenses. For some reason we don't do that. Probably just so we can be different.

I'm not sure, but I think in civil courts in Texas there is still a difference between the two.

Brady

BradyH1861
01-20-2007, 07:19 AM
I'm not saying an arrest without proof wouldn't work, I just haven't seen it that often.

One county south of where I work, bogus arrests are commonplace. The ole POP charge. I do not condone it. In fact, I strongly disagree with it. However, that is just the way they do things. I try to stay out of their county as much as possible. Since I work for the state, I sometimes have to venture down there, but I always feel like taking a shower when I get back.

Jerry CL
01-20-2007, 07:24 AM
What is the age of this young man and the young lady he assualted? I believe that might be a factor in most jurisdiction as well (alas, criminal law is not my expertise. I just watch a damn lot of Law and Order on TV)

Sean D. Schaffer
01-20-2007, 07:32 AM
I was just wondering if anyone knows what the punishment would be for assaulting a woman, in the United States.

The situation in the story is that a young man beats up a girl about his age, breaking several bones, after finding out that she assaulted his sister. After doing something like that, can you expect the police to be on your doorstep within minutes? And, if so, what kind of jail-time are you looking at? Is it something that would go to court?

Thanks. I'm trying to figure out what the natural consequences for such a thing would be. I want the character to go to prison with a multi-year sentence, but have to attend court in the first few weeks. But, first, I just have to see if all that can happen.


I was arrested in 1994 on an Assault charge, as I recall. The original charge was Assault 2, which is a felony in my state. I was able to negotiate a plea bargain and got a five-year probation with a reduced charge.

If I remember correctly, the Assault 2 charge carried a potential of a 5-year prison term. However, the court date was roughly a year after I had been first arrested.

And yes, when I was arrested, the police were there within a few minutes of the assault.

dahmnait
01-20-2007, 04:03 PM
If you are covering the state in which the assault takes place, you will want to look to the specific state laws. Otherwise you may need to find a general theme between the state laws to make your scenario plausible.

I have found FindLaw (http://www.findlaw.com/) to be a great starting point in regards to legal issues. Check out the Criminal Law (http://criminal.findlaw.com/) section. It not only has links to specific state laws, but also has information on all stages of a criminal case.

Vanatru
01-20-2007, 06:15 PM
One county south of where I work, bogus arrests are commonplace. The ole POP charge. I do not condone it. In fact, I strongly disagree with it. However, that is just the way they do things. I try to stay out of their county as much as possible. Since I work for the state, I sometimes have to venture down there, but I always feel like taking a shower when I get back.

I was just reading about that one county in Texas that was having a good number of convictions overturned due to new DNA testing.

So I guess the time frame of the story might be a factor. In a time with less accurate criminal sciences, or one where they can get a good idea on from the get go.

I do know of one case that was a bit shady, where the detectives kinda sorta "fixed" things to get an arrest and conviction. The only good thing was the person really was a scum bum needing to get locked up.

Dario D.
01-24-2007, 12:21 AM
Thank you for your input, all. I realize that the charge I'm looking for is Battery, and not just Assault.

I have another related question:

Are there any circumstances at all which could allow for someone to face court within the first week? Has there ever been a situation in which a case was rushed to court, and if so, how? Im trying to get this character to court as soon as possible, though I can also ignore the matter entirely if needed.

ideagirl
01-24-2007, 06:37 AM
Are there any circumstances at all which could allow for someone to face court within the first week? Has there ever been a situation in which a case was rushed to court, and if so, how? Im trying to get this character to court as soon as possible, though I can also ignore the matter entirely if needed.

Ignore the matter. You don't want your readers scratching their heads and wondering, "how the heck did he get to trial in one week?" I can't imagine how that could possibly happen.

Remember that if he "cops a plea" (does a plea deal with the prosecutor), there won't be a trial, just some hearings for the plea and formal sentencing.

Dario D.
01-24-2007, 06:49 AM
Well, naturally he wouldn't just "end up there" after a couple days. The situation would be explained.

Rabe
01-24-2007, 12:42 PM
Well, naturally he wouldn't just "end up there" after a couple days. The situation would be explained.

I can't think of a single reason why he'd go to court after only a week even on a simple misdemeanor charge. Even traffic citations take more than a week to process and get to court (not much longer, granted). But something facing jail time? Nope.

Especially if you want the character to be sentenced to prison. You're in it for the long haul. If you don't have the passage of time between the battery and court date as important, just skip over it and go to the court scenes. Show the passage of time in some sort of quick exposition such as the lawyer saying "Your honor, since the incident my client has realized the seriousness of his actions and sought counseling for his anger problems. He realizes now that he shouldn't have taken matters into his own hands by meting out justice before the police could even investigate his sister's own battery..." blah blah blah.

Rabe...

Dario D.
01-24-2007, 09:39 PM
Hmm, okay. Thanks for your advice. Looks like it isn't reasonable to do so then. Time for plan B :) Ignore court, and have the events in mind happen in a different way.

The story is sci-fi modern, so court itself isn't what I want to portray; it's what he does during the proceedings.
Again, thanks for the input, all. Very helpful.

ideagirl
01-25-2007, 01:45 AM
Well, naturally he wouldn't just "end up there" after a couple days. The situation would be explained.

My point was that the situation CAN'T be explained. The judicial system simply does not move that fast, end of story. You can't get someone from crime to trial in one week.