Assault Charges in Maryland: Why Is There No Battery Charge?

Harming or threatening harm against somebody is a crime in Maryland. Assault charges cover many offenses, ranging from incidental to major.

  • Assault or battery, there is no legal difference in Maryland
  • First and second-degree, how the law enforces charges and what the differences are (Bonus charge – aggravated assault)
  • Allegations of assault, four logical defenses against the charge

Assault or Battery? – Lumped Together in Maryland

Distinct charges in other states, but Maryland does not distinguish a difference. Anything to do with battery is assault. In the past, the battery was the actual physical harm, while the assault was minor injuries or their threat.

Today, Maryland law views the terms as the same and has assault laws on the books. Assault in the state is the intent or attempt to cause physical injury to another person.

Assault covers a wide range of offenses, from a simple slap to shooting someone or a threat to do either. Technically, shoving someone out of the way can be considered assault. 

Allegations range from the outlandish to extremely serious. Check out these headlines for some weird assault cases:

How can something as mundane as a vegetable or prank become assault? Intent. When somebody throws an object at someone else, the objective is to hit them and harm them with the item.

Again, assault's definition is the intent or attempt to cause physical harm to another. It is hard to say someone did not intend to throw something when the act happened. But, maybe the accused became provoked and feared for their life. Possible defenses to an assault accusation. (We'll get into more detail about those later.)

So, assault seems to cover every intentional act to harm someone under the sun. How is assault by baby carrot or assault by physically beating somebody the same? Well, they are not. Maryland separates assaults into degrees.

Charges: First and Second-degree, Plus Bonus Charge of Aggravated Assault

Being charged with assault varies in the degrees Maryland has set up. Because assault and battery get lumped together, charges range from a misdemeanor to a felony—charges based on circumstances and factors involved in the alleged assault.

Second-Degree Assault

Less grim of the two but still considered a serious offense. Commonly, a second-degree assault charge occurs when minor injuries or threats happen. Instances of charges include:

    • Trying to punch someone in a bar fight
    • Revving an engine to make it seem like the driver is going to run over someone
    • Threatening to kill somebody over political differences
    • Throwing a bottle up into the air in the middle of a concert crowd and accidentally hitting someone in the head. Although, the intent may not have been to hit someone. The action represents a "reckless" disregard for the safety of others. (That might be prosecuted.)
    • Striking a police officer causing an injury

That last example brings second-degree assault up a notch. Officer's or first responders assaulted make the charge a felony.

Penalties for misdemeanor charges are up to 10 years in prison and up to $2,500 in fines or both.

Felony assault charges face up to 10 years in prison. But, fines go upwards of $5,000. And potentially both fine and jail.

First-Degree Assault

A severe accusation. This charge comes out if any of the above second-degree actions involve a firearm.

To face this charge, prosecutors believe the defendant threatened or caused serious physical injury with a gun. Use guns for hunting, home protection, or target shooting. Don't go waving them in people's faces threatening to use them.

An assault can also be elevated to a 1st degree assault if a person causes or attempts to cause serious physical injury to another. Finally, a 1st degree assault now includes an assault by intentionally strangling another.

Convictions are felonies and penalized with up to 25 years in prison.

Bonus Charge: Aggravated Assault

Not classified by Maryland law, aggravated assault increases the severity of the charge and possible sentences. This charge involves the same guidelines as first and second-degree assault. Covers any weapon used to cause or threaten serious bodily harm.

That harm is likely to cause death or significant bodily injury. What's the difference between "serious" and "great" physical damage? A broken nose is severe, but acid burns over 80% of the body are significant.

In other words, outside circumstances to the alleged incident factor into whether the charge becomes aggravated.

4 Ways to Defend Against Assault Allegations

Every case is different. Circumstances will factor into how everything plays out. Sometimes, an assault is not an assault. Here are ways an experienced criminal defense attorney may defend an accusation of assault.

Self-Defense

A common defense. The accused must show that they, too, felt threatened. Also, there was no provocation by them, and they had no way of getting away from the situation.

Just claiming self-defense won't get someone off the hook—someone using a shotgun against an alleged attacker who only had a rock, unreasonable. The victim may still bring an assault charge.

Defending Others

Very similar to self-defense. Again, reasonable grounds are needed. A real perceived fear of harm to someone else must exist. Because somebody says, they will hurt Grandma does not mean they will. Going on the offensive is not the best move.

They say that while pointing a shotgun at Granny, a different story. The fear of harm to Granny is genuine in this circumstance.

Defending Property

A person, too, may reasonably defend property, particularly from invasion. For example, someone attempts to break in or breaks into a home. The owner has every right to protect the property and themselves, for that matter.

Maryland has a law on the books specifically about defending property; Castle Doctrine.

Lack of Criminal Intent

As they say, accidents happen. If someone gets elbowed in the face at a concert and in the mosh pit. There is no criminal intent to harm the other. Yes, a charge could be brought, but the facts show unsubstantiated claims.

Both parties were in the mosh pit, slamming into others and jumping around wildly. Throwing caution to the wind and joining the pit means the person knew the risk of harm could occur.

Yes, injury or harm may happen because of the circumstances, but assault, no.

A criminal defense attorney examines and investigates. Circumstances of the assault charge can lead to a fair outcome or charges dropped altogether.

JC Law offers free initial consultations. Please find out how we can help you deal with an accusation of assault. Explaining the possible defenses and any misconceptions is what we do. We're here to help keep you at home, where you belong.

[CHECKLIST] If you need a criminal defense lawyer in Maryland, learn the 8 questions you must ask before retaining.