Allegations of assault and battery, particularly in the military training environment, have become a high visibility issue for the Department of Defense in recent years.
MJA has defended service members facing investigation, court-martial, and discipline for the most serious offenses under the UCMJ, including assault and battery. Contact one of our military defense lawyers today to learn more.
Article 128, UCMJ (Assault)
Article 128 criminalizes the offenses of assault, aggravated assault, and assault with the intent to commit specified offenses. The elements to these offenses are as follows.
Under the UCMJ, any person who: (1) attempts to do bodily harm to another; (2) offers to be bodily harm to another; or (3) does bodily harm to another person is guilty of assault. Bodily harm is broadly defined as “an offensive touching of another, however, slight.”
Under Article 128, an attempt to do bodily harm is characterized as a simple assault. If there was unlawful contact, however, the act may be charged as assault consummated by battery. Article 128 permits increased punishments for assaults upon commissioned officers, warrant officers, NCOs, petty officers, sentinels, lookouts, and law enforcement personnel executing their duties.
The difference between a simple assault and a battery ultimately comes down to whether or not there was an unlawful touching. For example, an assault occurs if a service member swing his fists in the direction of someone’s head intending to hit the other person but missing. A battery occurs if the service member swinging his fist actually makes contact.
Aggravated assault is, by its very name, more serious than simple assault. It involves the use of a dangerous weapon or infliction of serious bodily harm.
The crime of aggravated assault is committed when any person: (1) who, with an intent to do bodily harm, offers to do bodily harm with a dangerous weapon; or (2) who, in committing an assault, inflicts substantial bodily harm or grievous bodily harm on another person.
The definition of what constitutes a “dangerous weapon” is particularly important. While most people would think of a dangerous weapon as a gun, knife, or baseball bat, the definition of a dangerous weapon under Article 128 is much more broad. In short, any weapon capable of inflicting death or serious bodily harm is considered dangerous. This would include objects like a bottle, beer glass, rock, piece of pipe, boiling water, drugs, or a rifle butt. Under the right circumstances, even a service member’s fists, teeth, feet, elbows, or other body parts could be considered dangerous weapons.
Assault with Intent to Commit Specific Offenses
A third category covers assaults committed during the commission or intended commission of other crimes. This charge applies to any person who commits an assault with the intent of also committing murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, sexual assault, rape of a child, sexual assault of a child, robbery, arson, burglary, and kidnapping.
Defenses to an assault case depend on the individual circumstances. As with all cases, the elements of the crime must have been committed by the individual. However, since there are various types of the offense of assault, defenses to the elements will change depending on the type of assault alleged.
For instance, consider the intent elements of aggravated assault. Aggravated assault can come in two types: assault with a dangerous weapon or assault which inflicts substantial or grievous bodily injury. To be guilty of the former, the accused must have specifically intended to do bodily harm while using a dangerous weapon. But to be guilty of the latter, the accused only must have generally intended to assault another person; it does not require a specific intent to cause substantial bodily harm.
It is not a defense to a charge of assault that for some unknown reason, an assault was bound to fail. For example, if a person points a loaded rifle at someone and pulls the trigger, that person is guilty of assault even if the cartridge was defective and did not fire.
Since Article 128 encompasses such a wide variety of conduct, the maximum punishment a person can receive depends on the type of assault. Maximum punishment of some of the more frequently charged crimes are as follows:
Under the UCMJ, the punishment for an assault increases based on the status of the victim. Accordingly, assaults upon a commissioned, warrant, noncommissioned, or petty officer, or assaults upon a sentinel, lookout, or law enforcement officer in the execution of their duties, increase the potential maximum punishment.
Protect Your Freedom and Your Military Future
When your life, career, and future are on the line, you need an experienced law firm in your corner. The skilled and experienced attorneys at MJA have defended service members facing investigation, court-martial, and discipline for the most serious offenses under the UCMJ, including assault and battery.
We will ensure that every avenue of defense is aggressively pursued on your behalf. Call us today at (843) 473-3665 for a free consultation.