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When does a heated argument escalate to a criminal offense?

| Jul 9, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Sometimes emotions get heated during an argument between strangers, friends or even family and it is not too long before one person or another is threatening to throw a punch or two. However, doing so can cause you to be arrested for assault and/or battery. It is important for you to understand what constitutes assault and battery in West Virginia so you can make informed decisions in your defense.

What is assault in West Virginia?

The crime of assault takes place if a person attempts to violently injure someone else or puts another person in reasonable fear that they will be immediately violently injured. For example, if you are arguing with someone, raise your fists and say you are going to punch them in the face, this may be considered assault even if you never strike them. Assault is a misdemeanor crime. If convicted of assault you could face up to six months in jail and/or a $100 fine.

What is battery in West Virginia?

The crime of battery takes place if a person intentionally physically contacts another person in an insulting or provoking matter and intentionally and actually causes physical harm to that person. For example, if you are in a verbal argument with someone and you actually do punch them in the face, this may be considered battery. Like assault, battery is also a misdemeanor crime. If convicted of battery you could face up to 12 months in jail and/or a $500 fine.

The more serious crime of malicious assault

There is a third crime against the person that is more serious than mere assault or battery: malicious assault. The crime of malicious assault takes place if a person maliciously shoots, stabs or cuts someone or in any other way injures someone with the intention of maiming, disfiguring, disabling or killing that person. Malicious assault is a felony crime. If convicted, you could face a prison sentence of two to 10 years. If such an act is not malicious but is still illegal and the person still has an intent to maim, disfigure, disable or kill this is considered a felony crime. If convicted you could face a prison sentence of one to five years, or a jail sentence of up to 12 months and a $500 fine.

Learn more about violent crimes in West Virginia

It is important to keep your cool during a heated argument, to avoid being accused of assault or battery. If you are arrested for assault or battery, it is important to understand your rights. This post is for educational purposes only and does not contain legal advice. We encourage readers to explore our firm’s criminal law webpage to learn more.