There are varying gradations of felony assaultive behavior ranging from assault with intent to kill (AWIK), which is another way of saying attempted murder — to assault with significant injury which is an assault that leaves the victim with a fairly significant injury, such as a bloody lip that needs stitches. Aggravated assault is an assault where the victim suffers a more significant injury, such as a broken jaw.
Assault with a dangerous weapon (ADW) involves an assault that results in a severe injury, a very minor injury, or no injury at all. For example, when one shoots towards another, intending only to scare him and indeed misses, the severity of the conduct speaks for itself even though there is no physical injury. The focus is on the weapon in the assault and how it is used. An ADW can arise when a gun is used as a weapon. At the other extreme, the government has prosecuted ADW cases based on the type of shoe worn when one man allegedly kicks another.
Misdemeanor Assaultive Conduct occurs where the alleged offender physically harms or frightens the alleged victim. The striking itself does not necessarily have to cause an injury.
Domestic violence cases have traditionally stood at the crossroads of criminal and domestic relations law. However, these cases no longer involve only the conduct of an abusive husband or boyfriend. Domestic violence cases now focus on siblings, parents, children, domestic partners, even roommates. For example, I once represented an young man in domestic violence court whose alleged crime was winning a consensual fight against a fellow inmate while in prison. (The government ultimately dismissed that case when the judge asked the prosecutor if he was serious).
Beyond appropriate prosecutions of abusive husbands and boyfriends, arrests and prosecutions have become far too common for even a slight push, or even a threat uttered in the heat of the moment. The power to arrest and prosecute alleged offenders under the all-encompassing domestic violence rubric is among the most abused of police powers, not necessarily because the police want to make the arrest, but because they have no discretion other than to arrest the accused wrongdoer even if the allegation is nothing more than a push.
Domestic relations charges are among the most serious charges that an individual can face, not so much because of the potential jail time involved, but because of the ongoing stigma and discrimination following conviction. Employers are much less likely to hire an individual with a domestic violence assault conviction than a conviction that arose from a bar-fight with a stranger. Other additional consequences include the loss of lucrative government contracts and the right to possess a firearm.
Individuals can use domestic violence court procedures to keep unwanted family members away by obtaining a civil protection order that prohibits the unwanted individual from coming within a certain distance. Criminal charges will frequently rise when an individual violates the civil protection (stay-away) order by simply coming too close to the protected individual. As with simple assault charges under the domestic violence rubric, a conviction for violating a civil protection order carries the reality of diminished employment and contracting opportunities, as well as losing the right to possess a firearm.