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If you or someone you care about is facing an assault charge, understandably you may be feeling anxious, worried, and scared about what might happen next. You’re not alone – thousands of people each year are charged with assault, and most of them are wondering how to get the charges dropped. In this article, we’ll answer some of the most common questions we get about assault charges and how to get them dropped, including the defences that are available to you. We also outline what sentence you could be looking at if convicted.
Any crime is serious, and common assault is no exception. Violent crime has devastating consequences on the victim, the victim’s family, and wider society as a whole. The offender and their friends and family, too, are often very seriously impacted by the commission of a violent crime. It is no surprise, therefore, that the police and the courts take common assault seriously.
In England and Wales, assault and battery are two separate offences, but they are often charged together. Assault is when someone threatens or attempts to apply unlawful force on another person. Battery is when unlawful force is actually applied to another person. In other words, assault is the threat of violence while battery is the actual violence itself.
You can be charged with either assault or battery, or both. The offence you are charged with will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case.
The offence of common assault was created by Section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. The Act does not define what assault is, however. Instead, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) defines assault as follows:
‘An assault is any act (and not mere omission to act) by which a person intentionally or recklessly causes another to suffer or apprehend immediate unlawful violence. The term assault is often used to include a battery, which is committed by the intentional or reckless application of unlawful force to another person.’
Examples of common assault include:
Assault is when you cause someone apprehension of immediate unlawful violence, so shouting at them in a way that makes them think you are about to hurt them can count as assault. The violence anticipated does have to be immediate, however, so if you shouted at someone from across the street and then carried on walking in the other direction, a charge of common assault is unlikely (though it might be something else if it happens routinely, like hate speech or harassment).
Yes, pushing someone can count as assault. Pushing is a type of unlawful force, so if it makes someone think you are about to hurt them even more, it can be classed as an assault. For an assault charge, it doesn’t actually matter whether you inflict harm on the person – what matters is that they anticipate immediate unlawful violence because of your actions.
Under the Criminal Justice Act, the maximum sentence that can be imposed for common assault in England and Wales is six months’ imprisonment. In reality, however, most people who are convicted of common assault will receive a lesser charge, such as a fine or a community sentence.
The sentence you receive will depend on the severity of the assault and your personal circumstances. The court will also take into account any mitigating factors, such as if you acted in self-defence or if you were provoked.
If a case proceeds to trial, it means that the police and the CPS believe they have enough evidence to secure a conviction against you in court. By the time a case proceeds to court, therefore, it is unlikely that any assault charges will be dropped because of evidentiary reasons (unless new exculpatory evidence comes to light). Instead, the only way out of a charge at this point is to raise a legal defence.
Some of the main defences to common assault charges include:
It is very difficult to give a definitive answer to this question, as the chances of getting an assault charge dropped will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of your case.
That said, there are a few things that can increase your chances of getting an assault charge dropped.
First, if you have been charged with common assault but the evidence against you is weak, it is possible that the charge will be dropped before the case goes to court. This usually happens if the police and CPS do not believe they have a strong enough case to secure a conviction.
Second, even if the evidence against you is strong, it is still possible that the charge will be dropped if you have a strong defence. As mentioned above, some of the main defences to common assault include self-defence, provocation, consent, and duress. If you can successfully raise one of these defences, it is possible that the charge will be dropped.
Finally, even if neither of the above applies to your case, it is still possible that the charge will be dropped if the victim of the assault does not wish to press charges. This is most likely to happen where the assault was relatively minor and was committed by someone who is known to the victim (for example, a family member or friend).
Yes, you can get fined for assault in addition to receiving a prison sentence. Prior to 13 March 2015, the maximum that fine could be was £5,000. Since then, however, there is no maximum cap on the fine amount. The court makes a decision about what the fine should be based on how serious the offence was and the financial circumstances of the offender.
Generally speaking, a fine for common assault is unlikely to exceed 175% of your weekly income. The court also ensures that the fine will be a hardship, but it should not deprive the defendant of the means to live. Typically, the defendant should be able to pay off the time within 12 months.
Hitting someone can lead to a common assault charge, and a common assault conviction can attract a prison sentence of up to six months.
Yes, victims can withdraw their statements. However, this does not mean that the case will be automatically dropped. The decision to prosecute lies with the CPS, not the victim, and so the case may still go ahead even if the victim has withdrawn their statement. The reason for this is that it is in the interest of the public for the police and CPS to still charge people with crimes even if the victim withdraws their statement because the job of law enforcement is to keep people safe. The only reason the police or CPS might drop an assault charge if the victim withdraws their statement is if there is no realistic prospect of securing a conviction if the victim will not testify in court.
It is possible for a domestic violence case to be withdrawn if the victim changes their mind about testifying. However, as we have seen, this does not mean that the case will be automatically dropped.
Dealing with an assault charge is stressful, but you can help lower that stress by getting specialist advice from an experienced criminal defence solicitor. At Stuart Miller Solicitors, our friendly team of criminal law experts is standing by ready to assist with your case. Contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation today.
A legal expert will consult you within 24 hours of making an enquiry.
We will always treat you with trust, understanding and respect.
Your case will be handled by an expert who specialises in your type of offence.
We will take early action to end proceedings as soon as it is practically and legally possible to do so.
You will be kept updated on your case at all times. We will provide a named contact available to answer your questions.
We understand this is a difficult and stressful time for you and your family. Our team will support you every step of the way.
We will never give up on your case. We fight tirelessly to get you the best possible outcome.