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Holland & Usry, P.A.

Assault and Battery Charges in South Carolina: The Difference in Degree

Here’s a variation of question we get a lot: “What in the world is assault and battery second degree, and why did I get charged with it?!”

One of the most confusing things for our assault and battery clients is exactly what their charge means and why they got charged with it.

In South Carolina, assault and battery charges are all a matter of degree—just like burns. And, just like burns, the worse the degree, the more painful it can be for you. But that’s why we’re here: to make it go away if we can, or make it as painless as possible if we can’t.

I’ll unlock the secrets of these degrees for you. Generally, the levels of assault and battery are determined by the alleged severity of the injury, or whether it involves accusations of other serious crimes.

Assault and battery is defined by law in South Carolina Code §16-3-600. Here are the specifics:

Assault and Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature (“ABHAN”)

ABHAN requires injuring the complainant, resulting in great bodily injury or using means likely to produce death or great bodily injury.

ABHAN charges might involve a shooting or stabbing. It’s a felony carrying up to 20 years.

Assault and Battery First Degree

Assault and Battery First Degree can occur in one of two ways.

  • The first requires injury. It must also involve either unwanted, sex-charged touching of the complainant’s private parts, whether under or above clothing, or occur during a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft.
  • The second requires no injury. Instead, it requires the threat or attempt to harm with the present ability to do so. Also, the act must involve means likely to produce death or great bodily injury, or occur during a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft.

These charges could result if a complainant accuses you of “roughing her up” in a hookup you thought was consensual. Another example could be pulling out a gun and threatening to shoot someone with it.

The charge is felony carrying up to 10 years in prison.

Assault and Battery Second Degree

Assault and Battery Second Degree can involve injury or the threat or attempt to harm with present ability to do it. The charge also requires:

  • Moderate bodily injury that resulted or could have resulted, or
  • Unwanted sex-charged touching of private parts, whether under or above clothing.

This could occur if you break someone’s arm in a bar fight. Or threatening to break someone’s nose with the brass knuckles on your fist if they don’t let you grope them.

It’s a misdemeanor carrying a fine of up to $2,500 (which gets more than doubled after court costs and assessments), or up to three years in prison, or both.

Assault and Battery Third Degree

Assault and Battery Third Degree is sometimes referred to as “simple assault and battery.” It requires injury or the threat or attempt to injure with present ability to do so. This is a charge we see in a fight where no one gets badly hurt. It’s a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500 (which gets more than doubled after court costs and assessments), or jail up to 30 days, or both.

Keep Defending Yourself

Just because you got charged with a severe degree of assault and battery doesn’t mean it sticks. But to win—or just limit the damage to your reputation and protect your freedom—you’ll need a skilled criminal defense attorney to launch a full defense. You need one who knows all your options to avoid conviction, even if you're guilty. One who, even if the case can’t be won, can command and present all the evidence needed to convince a judge to keep you out of prison.

You’re already looking in the right direction. For a free meeting to strategize your defense and discuss your options, call us at 800.230.1841.

Rob Usry
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Rob is a South Carolina personal injury and criminal defense lawyer.