Individuals in Georgia are usually charged with simple battery when they make physical contact with another person in a way that is designed to provoke or insult, but actual touching is not necessary and even words can be enough to support the charge if they are threatening enough. This means that raising a clenched fist to another person’s face and threatening to punch them could lead to a simple assault charge in the Peach State. Simple assault can be charged as a straightforward misdemeanor or a high and aggravated misdemeanor in Georgia depending on the circumstances and the victim.
High and aggravated misdemeanors
High and aggravated misdemeanors are more serious criminal law offenses that carry harsher penalties. Situations where a simple assault count in Georgia could be elevated to a high and aggravated misdemeanor charge include:
- The defendant assaulted a pregnant woman or a senior citizen.
- The victim was assaulted while riding on a public transit vehicle or waiting at a bus or train station.
- The defendant assaulted a police officer, detention officer or corrections officer while they were carrying out their official duties.
- The defendant and victim are current or former spouses, parents of the same child, children and parents, stepchildren and stepparents, foster children and foster parents or siblings living under the same roof. However, the law does not apply to parents who administer corporal punishment to discipline their children.
- The defendant works in a nursing home or assisted living facility or provides health care services in the home and assaulted a patient.
- The victim is a sports official who was assaulted before, during or shortly after a contest that they refereed, umpired or officiated.
- The victim was a public school employee who was assaulted while they were performing their official duties.
Simple assault penalties
When a simple assault is charged as a misdemeanor, the defendant can be fined up to $1,000 and sent to jail for up to a year if they are convicted. The custodial penalty for a high and aggravated misdemeanor conviction is also up to 12 months in jail, but the fine can increase to up to $5,000.
Common simple assault defenses
There are a number of defenses that individuals or their criminal defense attorneys could mount in a simple assault case. They could claim that they were provoked by the victim, or they could say that the victim threatened them and they acted in self-defense. While these arguments may sometimes be unconvincing, they could be enough to secure a more favorable plea agreement.