A conversation with another attendee at a party or a chance encounter with a stranger outside a store could potentially escalate into a conflict with little warning. People can become violent and aggressive while under the influence of alcohol or in situations with certain social dynamics, for example.
Occasionally, a hostile interaction will lead to assault charges. If someone calls the police or ends up in a hospital, police officers may look for the other person involved in the altercation and arrest them. Assault charges can lead to significant penalties imposed by the courts and also a criminal record that will negatively impact someone’s reputation with employers, landlords and anyone else who might perform a background check.
Although people think of assault as a violent attack that harms someone, Missouri law actually has a very complex and broad-reaching definition for assault. The three behaviors below could constitute assault and lead to someone’s prosecution.
Negligently harming someone with a weapon
Perhaps someone has a set of throwing knives that they use for fun. If they try to demonstrate their use at a social gathering and harm someone, they might face charges for that. Anytime someone with a dangerous weapon does something negligent that leads to another person’s injury, the injured party or the state could try to hold that person accountable.
Making credible threats
Assault doesn’t necessarily have to involve any injury or physical contact. If one person intentionally says or does something intended to make another person fear for their immediate physical safety, that could constitute assault under Missouri law. Threats could include verbal statements, electronic messages and even body language.
Using touch to offend or provoke
Touch can be a way to connect with someone, but it can also be a way to communicate a sense of power or superiority. People can use touch to insult or offend someone, possibly by engaging in unwanted sexual touching. They can also use touch to provoke someone into a response, such as poking them in the chest while arguing. Such forms of touch can also lead to assault charges.
Assault in the fourth degree may be a misdemeanor, but it can still result in serious repercussions for anyone who is convicted of this offense. Understanding why the state might pursue assault charges after an altercation is an important starting point for those hoping to defend against those charges in criminal court.