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Criminal Charges Explained

July 22, 2021

Assault / Battery

In most states, an assault/battery is committed when one person: 1) tries to or does physically strike another, or 2) acts in a threatening manner to put another in fear of immediate harm. Many states declare that a more serious assault/battery occurs when one: 1) tries to or does cause severe injury to another, or 2) causes injury through the use of a deadly weapon. In some cases, an assault/batter can be pursued via civil laws as opposed to criminal.

The definitions for assault vary from state-to-state, but assault is often defined as an attempt to injure someone else, and in some circumstances can include threats or threatening behavior against others.

A typical definition for battery is the intentional offensive or harmful touching of another person without their consent. Under this general definition, a battery offense requires all of the following:

  • intentional touching;

  • the touching must be harmful or offensive;

  • no consent from the victim.


Attempt, the charge varies from state to state, but generally, attempted offenses occur when an individual has an actual intent to commit a crime (in legal terms, specific intent), and takes direct action toward completion of the crime. Typically, an individual will have failed to complete the crime, but this is not necessarily required. One common example of an attempted crime would be attempted murder, where an individual must have the intent to kill another individual, then take action towards that end but fall short of actually doing so.

Drug Possession

Federal and state drug possession laws make it a crime to willfully possess illegal controlled substances such as marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, LSD, “club drugs,” and heroin. These laws also criminalize the possession of “precursor” chemicals used in drug cultivation and manufacturing, as well as certain accessories related to drug use. Drug possession laws vary according to drug type, amount, and geographic area of the offense. Possession of small quantities may be deemed “simple” possession, while possession of large amounts may result in a charge of presumed “possession with intent to distribute.”


Driving under the influence of alcohol or other impairing drugs is a crime in all 50 states including the District of Columbia. Whether your state calls it “driving under the influence (DUI),” “driving while intoxicated (DWI),” There is no difference. The laws governing impaired driving are also enforceable when operating boats, bicycles, or other types of machinery.

After a person is arrested on suspicion of a DUI, it’s up to the district attorney’s office to file charges against the defendant. The exact nature of criminal charges be they a felony or misdemeanor depends on a number of factors, including the defendant’s prior convictions, the severity of the offense, the level of intoxication, and whether the offense caused injury or death.