Generally, misdemeanor assault—also called simple assault—is a minor crime relatively speaking. If you're convicted, the maximum penalty you would face is a $1,000 fine and up to 6 months in jail. However, here are two special circumstances that will automatically elevate a misdemeanor assault to a felon, resulting in a more severe punishment.
The Victim Was Part of a Special Class
The law does not discriminate when it comes to assaults. You will be charged and prosecuted regardless of who the victim was as long as the circumstances and evidence warrant that action. However, the law does put some people in a protected class and anyone who assaults those in that class will be charged with a felony.
This class includes people (typically public officials) who are discharging their duties at the time the assault occurred. The most well-known group this rule applies to are police officers. However, this class includes a number of public officials, such as parking enforcement officers, public school employees, code inspectors, child and family services employees, and licensed security personnel.
Women, children, and the elderly are also included in this protected class. So, if you hit someone who is 70 years old, even if that person is built like a lumberjack, you will be charged with felony assault, for example.
In some cases, you will only be charged with a felon if you know the person was in a special class, but this varies depending on who the individual was. It's best to consult with your attorney about whether this is a viable defense for you.
The Victim Was Severely Injured
Another thing that will elevate a misdemeanor assault into a felony is if the victim is severely injured or killed as a result. If you hit someone and the person falls on the concrete ground and suffers a skull fracture, you could be hit with a felony rather than a misdemeanor.
This is also true if the victim dies from his or her injuries while your case is ongoing. For instance, if you hit someone in the chest and that person dies from a heart attack a month later because of the damage he or she sustained from when you hit the individual, the prosecutor can elevate the charges to a felony as long as you haven't been convicted or acquitted yet.
For more information about this issue or help with your criminal case, contact a misdemeanor defense lawyer.