When someone accuses you of assault, this is one of the most frightening charges that you could face. What may have started as a mere disagreement with a spouse or family member suddenly imperils your freedom. In most instances, an assault charge carries with it a “no contact” restriction with the complainant. You may have to leave your home until the case is resolved. If you believe that you may be charged with assault, it is a good idea to find someone to stay with before your trial date and bring that person’s address and phone number with you when you are arrested. Also, bring to your bail hearing a phone number of someone, other than the complainant, who may help you post bail. After your arrest, you will be most likely appear before a District Court commissioner for a bail hearing. If you provide a different address from the complainant’s address, that may relieve some of the commissioner’s concern about possible danger that could occur if you were released on your own recognizance.
In Maryland, first degree assault is a felony that carries a possible sentence of 25 years of incarceration. Upon your arrest, you would likely have to post a bail to secure your release before trial, though it is possible that you could be held without bail pending trial depending on your previous convictions, pending felonies, past FTAs, or allegations in the Statement of Charges that pose a danger to the community. Under most circumstances, you would have an opportunity to request a preliminary hearing, where you would have a chance to challenge the sufficiency of the felony charge before your case is transferred from District Court to Circuit Court, which is the court that hears first degree assault cases.
Second degree assault is a serious misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison or a $2,500.00 fine. Often, but not always, second degree assault charges arise from disputes between family members or friends. Of all the charges, second degree assault is the most difficult to predict concerning your ability to secure pre-trial release. Every option is open to the court from personal recognizance to pre-trial supervision to a bail. There have been instances where the court held a person without bail based on their record and the nature of the allegations.
Second degree assault charges can be issued if the State alleges that you: (a) threatened immediate harmful or offensive contact to someone, (b) attempted to cause harmful or offensive contact to someone, and/or (c) caused harmful or offensive contact to someone. First degree assault includes the additional elements of a serious injury, a threat of a serious injury, and/or the use of a dangerous weapon, such as a firearm.
Various defenses can be asserted for assault, such as self-defense, or you can offer an alibi. Many times, second degree assault cases between family members can be concluded without a guilty plea. Some examples of this include: a spouse claiming his or her one-time right to use the marital privilege; an agreement with the State to place your case on the stet docket (indefinite postponement) with the condition that the detainee attend anger management or other counseling; or a plea of Not Guilty with an agreed statement of facts where the State would not object to a Probation Before Judgment disposition. While a PBJ is not a conviction, you would have to complete the terms of your probation or face a violation hearing where you could be sentenced to a term in prison and have a conviction on your record.
Assault charges can be frightening and shocking. A conviction could lead to a prison sentence and a firearm restriction. I will guide you through this difficult time and fight for the best outcome in your case.