Jacqui Ford, Jacquelyn Ford Law, P.C.: Welcome to Your Best Defense podcast. My name is Jacqui Ford. Today we’re going to be talking about assault and battery, and defending assault and battery cases in the state of Oklahoma. Assault and battery comes in a huge variety of shapes and sizes. The number of statutes dealing with assault and battery are very many. We’ll not be able to talk about all of them today, but we’re going to hit the big ones to be able to give you the information you need in case you, or a friend, or family member, is charged with assault and battery.
First of all, there’s the simple misdemeanor assault and battery. You think about the bar-fight guy. You know? And you’ve had a little bit too much to drink, and we get mouthy, and we put hands on one another. But there’s no major injuries, no broken bones, no weapons are used, it’s just fist-on-fist, ‘boys being boys’, or you know ‘girls being girls.’
Simple misdemeanor assault and battery is a very, very common charge. And as long as there’s not some sort of familial relationship that gives rise to a domestic violence case, then we’re dealing with generally just a misdemeanor simple assault and battery. Simple assault and battery is a misdemeanor, and it generally carries no time to up to 90 days in the county jail. Generally, up to a $1000 fine, the jury could assess prison, or jail time, or the fine, or both. So, it carries up to about 90 days. That’s for simple misdemeanor assault and battery.
Oftentimes, people get confused about the difference between assault and battery, or simple assault. The example that I generally give is if I’m pulling my fist back and say, “Oh, I’m going to hit ya!” That’s an assault. You’re threatening an act of violence. The battery doesn’t occur until actual contact is made. So, we could be charged in simple assault by threatening someone with harm. But to get to the rise of assault and battery actual contact must be made from the perpetrator to the victim, or some extension of their body.
Many times we see assault and battery charged as a felony. And people don’t understand how it goes from misdemeanor to felony. So, a misdemeanor means no major injuries, there’s no scarring, maiming, you know, and no weapons were used. But the minute you pick up a weapon, no matter how benign that weapon may be, you given rise to being charged with what we call assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. A dangerous weapon could be anything. It could be the stapler on your desk. It could be your shoe. It could be anything that you take in your possession to use as force against another person. Oftentimes, that item is being used in a manner it which it was not described to be used. So, if we pick up a trash can and throw it at somebody that’s assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. We just went from what should have been a very simple misdemeanor charge, to a felony charge. And it carries up to 10 years in The Department of Corrections. Many folks are surprised to know that.
If we use another kind of weapon, a weapon that is otherwise deemed deadly, and using it oftentimes has deadly results. Let’s think of a knife, a gun, nunchucks, a sword, something to that effect that is going to be used to cause serious, serious damage. Or, a car. Oftentimes, we see assault and batter with a deadly weapon with the use of a car. That is an 85% crime. This is a big deal. It’s a huge difference between assault and battery weapon with a dangerous which is deemed a violent crime, and assault and battery with a deadly when we’re attempting to use deadly force on another person. With no priors, that carries 0 to 20 years. And it’s 85% meaning if you’re sentenced to 10 years you must server 8.5 years before even being eligible for parole.
The real scary part about these felony charges is: if when you’re charged with these crimes you have prior felony conviction in your history, especially within the last 10 years, the laws of enhancement in Oklahoma drastically change your range of punishment. If you have one prior felony, and you pick up an assault and battery with a dangerous, as opposed to being faced with 0 to 10 years, you’re looking at 10 to life. With two priors, you’re getting up to 20 to life.
And the same rules apply over there on that deadly weapon. You know? It’s 0 to 20 with no priors. 10 to life with one prior. 20 to life with two priors. And every bit of those sentences on the deadly weapon charges carry and 85% penalty. Meaning, if you are sentenced to the minimum of 20 years because you have two or more priors, you’re going to serve 17 calendar years before even being eligible for parole.
And it’s important to inform yourself so that we can make quality cost-benefit analysis before we choose to engage in picking up weapons to defend ourselves, or make our point. Most people don’t know, and ignorance of the law no defense.
You start adding in other elements to assault and batteries, specifically with a dangerous weapon and you have a mask on. And now you’ve got a minimum of five and upwards of 20 years in The Department of Corrections. Like I say, the statutes go on and on. So, there are a lot of ways and variations to enhance your punishment.
One that we see a lot of, especially in today’s environment of, you know, kind of a rogue police force, and this militarization of police that’s being used against citizens, they like to charge now assault and battery upon a police officer. Assault and battery on a police officer, with no prior felony charges, carries up to five years in The Department of Corrections. So, what 10 years ago would have been treated as resisting arrest, now has it’s own statute that can possibly incarcerate you for up to five years. If a law enforcement officer says that you threatened him, and that you made an offensive contact with his body, or some extension thereof, we went from resisting, which is simply a misdemeanor, up to a felony charge. It’s unfortunate, but the law does treat law enforcement as more entitled to be free from unlawful touching than anyone else.
Certain other things that sometimes come up, you don’t see it all the time, but threatening judges, or lawyers, or witnesses, any kind of court reporter, also carries up to five years in the Department of Corrections. If we’re messing with a juror who’s sitting in jury, that extension of time extends six months. So, you really have to be careful about engaging in threatful or violent behavior.
Oftentimes, people ask, “Are these violent charges?” And violent charges have different meanings to different people. For the purposes of our discussion, it is, the question is whether or not it’s violent under Oklahoma Statute Title 57 Section 571. If you’re convicted of a violent crime, and that violent crime is in Oklahoma Statutes, and what that means is you have to serve upwards of 45% of that sentence in The Department of Corrections. Now that is not statutorily required like the 85% crime. That’s just policy-wise.
You can also be required after a conviction, or a plea of guilty, to register as a violent offender. Not many people know that we have a Violent Offender Registry in the state of Oklahoma. It’s very similar to the Sex Offender Registry in the state of Oklahoma. If you’re convicted of a violent offense, and you’re required to register as a violent offender, and you refuse to do so, or you do not comply with the rules and conditions of the Violent Offender Registry, you have now exposed yourself not only to a new felony charge, but also to a possible probation violation if you’re on probation for that underlying felony.
So, these are things that are important to keep in mind. Assault and battery with a deadly is 85%. It is also deemed a violent crime. When we’re filling out job applications, loan applications, apartment applications, these are oftentimes questions that are asked. “Have you ever been arrested for, or charged, with a violent crime?” These are very different questions than, “Have you been convicted of a violent crime?” So, it’s important that we think about our actions before we engage in them. And we do good, strong cost-benefit analysis.
One of the other assault and batteries that we’ve seen pop up lately is assault and battery on school employees. And that could include a coach, or a teacher, or things like that. It’s still deemed a misdemeanor as long as there’s no great bodily injury or no weapon used. But it carries up to a $2000 fine. The legislature’s really trying to encourage folks to keep their hands to their self .
Aggravated assault and battery can increase your range of punishment. Causing great bodily injury, and maiming, and scars increases your range of punishment.
What I generally find with assault and battery cases is most folks don’t engage in putting their hands on one another. Right? If has happened we’ve got some underlying issues. And part of our job is to figure out what those underlying issues are. Is it because I was drunk and intoxicated? Was it because there’s an incredible amount of stress going on in the home, and we need to figure out how to deal with these stressors? Oftentimes, the court wants to know what the heck was going on too. Why is this person acting so far outside of the norm of socially-accepted behavior? So, if we’re trying to work a deal for you. Or, you going to be put on probation in the future. It might be part of what your lawyer asks you to do, which is to go get a drug and alcohol assessment. Or, go get an anger-management assessment. Maybe we can put you in some anger-management classes. These classes are different than the mandatory domestic violence classes that we’ve talked about in previous podcasts that are 52- weeks long. Batterers’ intervention courses are much shorter. There are several programs locally that are just 13 weeks. Some are 26 weeks. They include an assessment ahead of time, and the assessor makes some sort of, you know, recommendations on how long you should be involved in those classes. And clearly it’s more than you go to class and they tell you to keep your hands to yourself. It’s really designed to help you figure out how to better deal with stressors, so that we don’t find ourselves in this position. And maybe the issue is drug and alcohol. Maybe it’s, you know, impulse control. Maybe it’s that we’re hanging in the wrong group of people and they don’t bring out the best in us. And we have to find a way to separate ourselves from that.
There are a number of different things that your experienced criminal defense lawyer might ask you to do. And all of these things are designed and geared up to be able to make you look better to the prosecutor than you look on paper. So, just listen to them, and make sure you find someone who knows exactly what it is they’re talking about, who’s dealt with these kinds of crimes in the past.
Thank you for talking to us today about assault and battery in Oklahoma.
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