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Lack of Reasonable Apprehension or Fear as a Defense in Illinois Assault Cases

Being charged with any crime in Illinois is a serious matter. However, being charged with a violent crime like assault or battery can put you in major legal jeopardy. Violent crimes carry the harshest penalties a person can face, including the potential sentencing of years in jail.

As most violent crimes are also considered felonies under Illinois state law, a conviction for assault or battery can affect you for the rest of your life, making it difficult to find a job, buy a house or car, and generally take part in normal society.

One potential defense in assault cases (but not battery cases) is demonstrating that the alleged victim had no reason to fear an impending violent act when the incident occurred. This is a tricky defense to pull off. However, if successful, it can save you from potentially spending a lengthy period of your life in jail.

To effectively utilize this defense if you’ve been charged with assault, you’ll need help from an experienced Illinois criminal defense lawyer. The Urbana-Champaign assault defense attorneys at Bruno Law Offices have spent more than 40 years helping defendants navigate the criminal justice system, giving us knowledge and courtroom experience you won’t find at many other firms. We never charge for an initial consultation and are available 24/7 to meet whatever legal needs you have. Contact our office today or call (217) 328-6000 for more information.

How Does Illinois Define Assault and Battery?

The Illinois Combined Statutes use the following definitions to determine when someone has committed assault or battery:

  • Assault — Assault is broadly defined as knowingly engaging in conduct that puts another person in reasonable fear of being attacked.
  • Aggravated assault — Aggravated assault is basically the same thing as assault applied to the threat of force in certain locations, against certain types of people, or using a weapon or motor vehicle. You can be charged with aggravated assault if you threaten someone on public property, at a religious center, or at a sports venue. You can also be charged with aggravated assault for attacking someone who’s physically disabled, anyone over the age of 60, a teacher, a utility worker, a police officer, firefighter, prions guard, or others who work in the public sector. Lastly, if you assault someone with a gun, motor vehicle, or other object, it’s automatically aggravated assault.
  • Battery — If assault is essentially the crime of intimidating or threatening someone, battery is the crime of actually physically attacking them. Specifically, battery is defined as causing bodily harm to someone or making contact of a provoking or insulting nature without legal justification.
  • Aggravated battery — Much like aggravated assault, aggravated battery relates to the circumstances of the attack, leading someone to be charged with a more serious crime. A battery charge can be upgraded to aggravated battery if:
    • You attack someone using a gun or other weapon
    • You cause someone great bodily harm
    • You attack someone under 13 years old or over age 60
    • You attack someone who’s physically disabled or pregnant
    • You attack certain classes of protected victims (public sector workers, store merchants, etc.)

It’s important to know these definitions because while assault and battery are frequently roped together in criminal cases, they are distinct crimes. In particular, the requirement for physical harm to have occurred is a crucial difference between battery and assault. If you did not cause physical harm to someone, you might be able to demonstrate their fear of attack was unfounded as a defense in assault cases.

What is “Reasonable Fear or Apprehension” in Assault Cases?

In order for someone to be charged with assault under Illinois law, the state must prove the victim had a reasonable fear that they were about to be harmed. If the victim was actually harmed, the charge would be battery instead of assault. Reasonable fear can be a nebulous legal concept. However, essentially it comes down to whether or not another “reasonable” person in the same situation would have felt afraid if they’d been subjected to the same threatening or intimidating acts.

Practical examples are helpful to understand the differences between charges. For instance, suppose a husband and wife are at home together and one of them playfully says they’re going to throw a pillow at the other one. That would likely not qualify as assault because of the tone of voice and the fact that a pillow is not a deadly weapon in most circumstances. However, suppose the husband and wife are arguing and the husband says he’s going to hit her while he has his hands raised. That likely would qualify as assault, as the husband’s actions would reasonably threaten most people in that situation.

How Do You Prove a Lack of “Reasonable Fear?”

Trying to prove a lack of reasonable fear as a defense in assault cases comes down to the circumstances of the alleged attack. Essentially, you and your attorney have to show that a normal person in the same circumstances as the alleged victim would not have been afraid of any imminent harm.

This can be a challenge to prove, as different people may have different levels of fear depending on their size, gender, personal history, and other factors. Using this defense with an assault committed with a firearm, for example, would be difficult to disprove because most people have a reasonable fear of a threat involving a gun. Even if someone who’s been threatened with a gun later finds out the gun was not loaded, they still had a reasonable fear of harm when the incident occurred. An experienced defense attorney can look over your case and tell you if this defense is worth pursuing or not.

Contact Bruno Law Offices Right Away if You Have Been Charged with Assault

Trying to demonstrate a lack of reasonable fear is one potential defense in Illinois assault cases. However, it’s not your only option. The Urbana-Champaign criminal defense attorneys at Bruno Law Offices have extensive knowledge of Illinois law, and we will work with you to craft a strong defense strategy. If you’ve been charged with assault, call (217) 328-6000 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.

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Bruno Law Offices
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Urbana, IL 61801
Tel: (217) 328-6000
Fax: (217) 328-6765

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