Assault Charges Can Put Your Job at Risk
Criminal convictions can put your job at risk. Jobs that require their employees to be trustworthy and upstanding citizens might fire someone because of a criminal charge. This was exactly what my client faced when he came to my office. He was almost in a panic that he might lose his job, which carried a great deal of respect, trust, and security. This made it all the more important for me to provide him with an aggressive defense to his case. Ultimately, the criminal charge of assault was dismissed.
Maine Assault Statute
17-A. M.R.S.A §207- Assault, reads:
- A person is guilty of assault if:
- The person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury or offensive physical contact to another person. Violation of this paragraph is a Class D crime; or
- The person has attained at least 18 years of age and intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another person who is less than 6 years of age. Violation of this paragraph is a Class C crime.
The maximum penalties for a Class D misdemeanor crime include up to $2,000.00 in fines and up to 364 days jail time. And the maximum penalties for a Class C felony crime include up to $5,000.00 in fines and up to five (5) years jail time.
Facts of the Case
My client was waiting for the school bus with his son and a neighbor’s son. The neighbor’s son began taunting and insulting my client. As a parent, my client felt strongly that this behavior was not acceptable. He took action in a way that others might have only thought about doing- he grabbed the rude child by the arm and brought him to his parents to be disciplined for his bad behavior.
When he arrived at the neighbor’s door, he did not get the reaction that he was expecting. My client had expected the parents to thank him for bringing the boy’s insulting of an adult to their attention. Instead, the neighbors became angry at my client and called the police. My client was then charged with Assault even though the youth was not hurt.
The Assault charge not only put my client’s clean record at risk, but it also put his job at risk. If he were convicted, he would have been fired, period. As a result, this case made him very upset and stressed when he contacted my office.
Weaknesses in the State’s Case
After meeting with my client, it was clear to me what the weaknesses were in the District Attorney’s case. In my view, the parents of the rude child overreacted to the situation. Perhaps they felt defensive that another parent was pointing out the weaknesses in their own parenting abilities. Perhaps they felt embarrassed that their child’s poor behavior was pointed out to them, and then lashed out in anger instead. It was my position that had the District Attorney’s office opened their eyes a bit wider, they would have seen this case for what it was. No assault had happened here.
The assault statute in Maine required that my client “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” make offensive contact with the youth, or that my client intend to physically hurt their neighbor’s son. The facts of the case showed that my client in fact did not intend to hurt the child, but intended only to make it clear to the neighbor’s son that his behavior was not acceptable. In other words, the act was that of good parenting, not assault.
What happened at Court
I submitted a Motion to Dismiss for De Minimus Conduct with the Court. A Motion to Dismiss for De Minimus Conduct argues that the alleged “facts” described in the police report and the District Attorney’s criminal complaint did not rise to the level of behavior that the statute for assault, 17-A M.R.S.A. § 207, sought to punish, notwithstanding if it technically fit the elements of the crime of assault. This type of Motion is not controlled by case law, as much as it is by statutory interpretation and the presiding Judge’s discretion. As a result, my Motion revealed to the State that it had a very weak case as it was seeking to punish very trivial conduct. This Motion was enough to get the District Attorney’s attention for a fruitful discussion towards an outcome that favored my client. After a period of good behavior on the part of my client, the State dismissed the charge.
As a result of having an aggressive defense through motion practice, my client’s job was preserved, as well as his reputation and peace of mind.