Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"BUT I DIDN'T TOUCH ANYBODY!:" THE ILLINOIS LAW ON ASSAULT

You were really mad at your teacher. Without thinking, you threw a fist like you were going to hit him. But then someone called the police, and now you are charged with aggravated assault.

What can you do? What is an assault, and what are the penalties?
In Illinois, you commit assault when you cause someone to reasonably believe you are going to make physical contact with them. Instead, a battery is when you actually do. (See our related post on battery at http://www.skokiecriminallawyer.com/2011/10/illinois-aggravated-battery-law.html.) Simple assault is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine. In addition, the court must order you to perform community service for at least 30 and no more than 120 hours.

Under certain circumstances, assault can be upgraded to an aggravated offense. Aggravation can be based on how you were conducting the assault. Were you threatening someone with a weapon? Were you hooded or masked and/or pretending to use a gun? Were you firing a gun from a car? Were you using your car to make the threat? Were you flashing a laser attached to a gun at someone?

A second factor for aggravation involves the type of person you were assaulting. Did you go after a teacher or a sports official or a utility worker? Was the person a government investigator, a peace officer, emergency worker, probation officer or prison employee, a bus or a train driver? Was the person elderly or disabled? Was the person a process server who was attempting to serve a legal summons?

For the most part, aggravated assault is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. However, if firearms are involved, you may be charged with a Class 4 Felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. It is also a Class 4 felony, if you assault a correctional officer, probation officer or other government official. As of this year, it is a class 4 felony to assault a process server.

If you are charged with any assault, you should contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately to discuss your case. Do not make statements to the police or third parties. Do not text or email about your situation or post it on Facebook. Any statements you make can be used against you and can undermine your defense.

As with most offenses, the State of Illinois must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced criminal law attorney can look for weaknesses in the state’s case. Did you have a legal justification for the assault such as self defense? Did the victim have a reasonable apprehension that you were going to hit them? Maybe you were just flailing your arms and didn’t even realize they were there.

Even if the evidence is pretty clear that you were intentionally threatening to harm someone, all is not lost. An attorney who is respected by the court may be able to work out a better plea negotiation than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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