In Rhode Island, felony assault is a crime under Rhode Island Statute § 11 – 5 – 2. The statute reads, in part, “Every person who shall make an assault or battery, or both, with a dangerous weapon, or with acid or other dangerous substance, or by fire, or an assault or battery that results in serious bodily injury shall be guilty of a felony assault.”
A careful reading of the statute makes it clear there is a difference between assault and battery. While the differences may seem technical in nature, it is important to understand both assault and battery are considered a felony assault under the statute.
In laymen's terms, an assault is actually a threat of violence. This can be verbal, such as saying, “I am going to throw this acid in your face!” or “I am going to beat you until you can't stand up.” But an assault can also be non-verbal, such as pointing a gun at someone. A more elaborate threat of violence might include pouring gasoline on a pile of clothes in the doorway between the assaulter and the victim, and showing the victim a lighter, suggesting a fire where the victim might be trapped in a room. It is important to understand assault, because it can occur without actually touching the victim.
Battery occurs when the threat of violence becomes real violence. If someone actually throws acid at someone or actually beats up someone, this is battery. If someone shoots another person or injures them by fire, this is a battery.
The Consequences of Assault and Battery
In criminal law, there is no distinction between committing an assault and committing a battery. Whether the victim is injured, or the injury is merely threatened, both can be a felony assault. The punishment for the behavior, however, can be different. Where a person actually sustains serious bodily injury, the punishment can be up to 20 years in prison. If, on the other hand, there is no injury (such as in an assault/threat), or only bodily injury that is not “serious” under the statute, the punishment is up to six years in prison.
Understanding Serious Bodily Injury
Serious bodily injury is defined by statute as an injury which creates a substantial risk of death, causes protracted impairment or loss of the function of the body, or causes serious permanent disfigurement. Bodily injury, on the other hand, means a physical injury resulting in physical pain, impairment of a physical condition, or illness.
Sometimes, the difference between bodily injury and serious bodily injury is a judgment call that may be litigated in the courts.
If You Are Charged with Assault
If you are charged with assault, you may already know that an assault conviction will have lasting consequences. You may be facing prison time, or you may be facing jail time, along with probation for an extended period. A felony assault conviction could make it more difficult to find a job or rent an apartment. Contact Kensley R. Bennett, Esquire for a free consultation.