Simple Assault vs. Aggravated Assault – Why local authorities didn’t need Chris Rock to press charges to take criminal action against Will Smith
At this point, everyone has watched the Will Smith Oscar slap incident after comedian Chris Rock made a joke regarding Smith’s wife hair style. It appears that local authorities will not criminal charge Mr. Smith following the incident and it appears that Chris Rock doesn’t plan on filing a civil lawsuit against Smith for the incident
If charged, the offenses will more than likely be simple assault as opposed to an aggravated assault. Of these criminal charges, aggravated assault is the most serious as it is a felony offense in California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
What is Aggravated Assault?
Aggravated assault is a felony of the first degree or the second degree depending on the actor’s intent. Aggravated assault is a felony of the first degree if the prosecution can show the serious bodily injury caused intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly under circumstances “manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life”.
Even if the prosecution, however, can show a “extreme indifference to the value of human life” a court can still convict someone of an aggravated assault of the second degree when a person causes bodily injury intentionally or knowingly with a deadly weapon. A deadly weapon is defined very broadly in Pennsylvania and can be practically anything.
What is a Simple Assault?
In addition to aggravated assault, there is also the much less serious offense of simple assault which is an attempt to cause bodily injury intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly. Simple assault also includes bodily injury “negligently” caused with a deadly weapon (such as a champagne bottle). Simple assault is a much less egregious offense and it is a misdemeanor of the second degree unless it is a fight started by “mutual consent” in which case it’s a misdemeanor of the third degree. It is clear that Chris Rock did not intend to fight Will Smith and so if authorities did charge Smith, it would be for the higher level
What would happen if Will Smith was criminally charged?
If Smith is charged, don’t expect the case to go to trial and it is likely that Smith would enter into some plea agreement and possibly a diversion program. Any type of admission of guilt, however, would clearly expose Smith to civil liability and a potential lawsuit from Chris Rock. Keep in mind, however, that authorities DO NOT need Chris Rock to press charges to move forward with criminal charges. Unlike a civil lawsuit, a criminal prosecution is a state/government action
Smith clearly does not have a good argument for self-defense and the comments made about his wife wouldn’t fall into a need to defend her against some type of physical harm or danger. While some may believe that Chris Rock’s joke was in poor taste, it didn’t physically harm Smith’s wife or her safety. Obviously, Smith exercised extremely poor judgment but many criminal cases in Pennsylvania and New Jersey start with poor judgment.
If you’re charged with a crime in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, it is very important that you seek the advice of a qualified criminal defense lawyer. This lawyer must explain the elements of the crime or offense charged and your possible defense to these charges.
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