In the State of Maryland, the Legislature determined that there are two degrees of assault: First Degree Assault and Second-Degree Assault.  The Legislature codified what constitutes each and what penalties a person can face if found guilty of assault.  Here are three situations in which the crime of second-degree assault may arise:

A woman pulls out a steak knife from the kitchen drawer and steps to within one foot of another with the knife in her hand and yells “I’m going to kill you”. She then puts the knife down and walks away. The other person is frightened.

A man sneaks up behind someone and tries to punch that person in the head, but misses and strikes nothing. The victim never sees the blow which would have hurt the man if it had landed.

Someone calls another a  “communist”. The other person is offended seeing this as an insult and strikes the utterer of this insult with his fist.

What crimes have occurred, if any?

Answer: In each case, the “aggressor” would be guilty of the crime of second degree assault.

Second Degree assault consists of any of these three distinct actions:

version (1) intent to frighten another. The intent to frighten variety requires that the defendant commit an act with the intent to place another in fear of immediate physical harm, and the defendant had the apparent ability, at that time, to bring about the physical harm. The victim must be aware of the impending battery, see id. at 133, 499 A.2d at 961, and there must be an apparent present ability to commit the battery.”

(2)attempted battery. This crime requires the specific intent to cause harm to the victim and to take a substantial step towards that injury.

(3)Battery consists of a deliberate touching of another eg. Hitting, punching, without the consent of that person and  without a privilege to touch them.

Consent or Privilege:

The rules of society have decided that each of us should expect to make accidental or minor contact with other people in the course of living our lives. In essence, we have implicitly consented to this contact. Walking past and brushing past people in a crowded elevator is an example of non-assaultive conduct.

Athletes who compete in contact sports, especially contact sports like football or mixed martial arts, have implicitly consented to non-assaultive conduct for the sake of the sport.

For example, boxers in a ring who strike each other do so with the other’s consent and are, therefore, not guilty of battery. Likewise, a person who strikes another with his fist to defend himself against an assault by the other is not guilty of battery because he is entitled to use reasonable force to defend himself. This is known as the privilege of self-defence.

If you or someone you know is charged with second-degree assault, you should recognize that second-degree assault is a misdemeanour and carries a possible punishment of 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $2500.00.  Assaultive behavior should never be tolerated in a civil society, and there are clear and serious consequences for anyone who assaults another in Maryland.