How does Ohio law define the crime of assault?

In Ohio, any person who knowingly or recklessly threatens or causes harm to another person can be charged with assault. Some acts of negligence can lead to assault charges, and the state also recognizes "aggravated assault" as a crime involving use of deadly force, use of a weapon, and/or a special class of alleged victim such as a police or corrections officer

Getting charged with assault implies that the suspect is accused of hurting someone, acting in a threatening manner, or not doing enough to prevent someone from getting hurt by their actions.

Does Ohio's definition of assault differ from how it defines battery?

Ohio does not define battery by statute and does not charge people with battery. Other states do sometimes make a distinction between assault and battery, with a battery charge requiring making physical contact.

Do federal laws use a different definition of assault?


What actions count as assault?

A full list of assault offenses would (and does) fill a law library. Avoiding such exhaustive detail, here is a brief sampling of assault offenses mentioned in the relevant sections of the Ohio Revised Code and the U.S. Code:

  • Physical and verbal attacks
  • Threats against a law enforcement officer, emergency responder, or public official
  • Domestic violence
  • Elderly, disabled, and patient neglect by a caregiver
  • Hazing
  • Hitting a student while acting as a school employee or volunteer
  • Hitting someone with your car while driving recklessly or while impaired by alcohol or drugs (i.e., vehicular assault)

Is murder an assault offense?

Murder technically meets the legal definition of assault. However, assaults that lead to loss of life generally get prosecuted as homicides.

Legally, a homicide is any taking of another person's life. The act becomes a crime when the person who committed the homicide acted maliciously, recklessly, or negligently. Here is how Ohio categorizes different types of criminal homicide, along with examples of actions that can bring each charge:

  • First degree murder (e.g., killing someone while committing a violent felony)
  • Second degree murder (e.g., taking a life while committing a misdemeanor that would be prosecuted as a felony due to previous convictions)
  • Voluntary manslaughter (e.g., inflicting a fatal injury without fully intending to do so)
  • Involuntary manslaughter (e.g., taking a life while committing a misdemeanor offense)
  • Reckless homicide (e.g., firing a gun into the air while drunk and having the falling bullet hit and kill someone)
  • Negligent homicide (e.g., failing to repair a damaged wall that collapses and kills a person)
  • Vehicular manslaughter (e.g., taking a life while violating a traffic law)

Do sex crimes fall under the legal definition of assault?

Many do, such as rape and stalking. Ohio law also lists "sexual motivation" as a factor for prosecuting an assault as an aggravated offense.

Does using a weapon automatically constitute assault?

In most cases, yes. State and federal prosecutors could also bring separate weapons crimes charges, treat a related offense such as robbery as "aggravated" by weapon use, and ask for stiffer sentences on each of the assault, weapons, and aggravated offenses. If you face such multiple charges, you need to secure representation from a caring and dedicated Columbus, OH, assault lawyer.

How is assault punished?

Possible penalties for an assault vary according to how the following questions get answered:

  • Was anyone harmed or merely threatened?
  • How severe was the alleged harm?
  • Was a weapon displayed or used?
  • Who was the target of the alleged assault, and how old were they?
  • What did the accused suspect allegedly do?
  • Does the statute under which the suspect was charged specify penalties?
  • Does the person accused of assault have prior convictions for violent crimes?

Without knowing precise answers to each of those questions (and probably a few others specific to the particular case), no accurate estimate of criminal consequences from a given assault charge can be given. Very generally, however, assaults involving weapons that result in death and assaults that physically harm children draw stiffer penalties than other types of assault offenses.

You can learn more about misdemeanor and felony sentences under Ohio law by clicking here.

Can I be accused of assault if I acted in self-defense?

Yes. You have the right to protect yourself and your property but you must prove using force was a reasonable action permitted under law. If you need to put together a self-defense case, you should speak with an assault attorney in Columbus, OH, who will know how to collect and present evidence to support your explanation of events.

Do other defenses against an assault conviction exist?

Yes. A Columbus criminal defense attorney will need know the particulars of your case to offer sound advice. Campbell Law can provide the answers you require, and we are ready to offer a free initial consultation. Contact us today to share your story and schedule an appointment.