Affray or Simple Assault

Getting Arrested in Mississippi: Simple Assault or Disorderly Conduct

If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged in Mississippi for simple assault or disorderly conduct, you may have a few questions, starting with, what exactly is simple assault or disorderly conduct? Typically, simple assault arrests are made after fights or quarrels between at least two people or where one person threatens another with “physical menace.” Disorderly conduct could result from a fight, or where public peace or order has been disturbed, as well as disobeying the command of a law enforcement officer. It’s not uncommon when you have an arrest for the officer to “load” on multiple charges, such as simple assault, public drunk, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, disturbing the peace. This is frequently done so the officer will have more chance of one of the charges sticking and so the prosecutor will have an opportunity to plea bargain with the numerous charges. If you get charged with one or more of these charges for assault, battery or disorderly conduct during an affray, you should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. A simple assault on a family member or live-in, or a domestic assault charge, even if you only get a fine and probation, revokes your right to ever own or possession a gun or ammunition. That means if you are a hunter, no more hunting!

What is Affray or Simple Assault?

Affray, as a legal definition, pertains to fighting between two or more people in a public location. The fight could have occurred in the street, at a local establishment or in any type of community setting. Basically, it’s a fight that happens in a public place. Additionally, the quarrel has to scare other people in the community. It’s different from a riot because, it is not a premeditated occasion to get together and engage in disorder. It is typically just a scary fight that breaks out in a public or community location. Mississippi no longer uses the term affray. The State Legislature has passed a law defining simple assault and you can be guilty of simple assault if you: a.) Attempt to cause or purposely, knowingly, or recklessly cause bodily injury to another b). Negligently cause bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon or other means likely to produce death or serious bodily injury, or c.) Attempt by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily harm.

It is important to look closely at this statute because a person can be guilty of simple assault if they act recklessly and cause bodily harm, even when they did not intend to specifically harm anyone. A person could be guilty of simple assault if they act negligently and used a deadly weapon or other dangerous means likely to produce death or serious injury. So negligently driving a car could lead to a simple assault charge because a car is certainly a “means likely to produce serious bodily harm.” And lastly, threatening someone can lead to a simple assault charge. This is what gets a lot of men in trouble. Making a serious, credible threat, for example on the sports field or in a bar can lead to a simple assault charge if the other person feels in fear of imminent serious bodily harm. Mississippi Code Annotated, Section 97-3-7. (Supp. 2014). The punishment for simple assault is up to six (6) months in jail and a $500.00 fine.

One last thing to note about simple assault. If you commit simple assault on a law enforcement officer or other state official, the crime is a felony and you can be subject to up to 5 years in the Mississippi State Penitentiary and a $1,000.00 dollar fine. So, if you tell a police officer that you are going to physically harm him, and he feels he is in imminent fear of serious injury, you could be in big trouble. In addition to the felony simple assault on a law enforcement officer, you might also be charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. It is possible for a prosecutor to treat a simple assault on a law enforcement officer, which is a felony, as a misdemeanor, but it will almost always require the agreement of the officer.

Disorderly Conduct

Disorderly conduct can also go along with assault charges, because in its essence, a simple assault charge can also be considered, in some circumstances, disturbing the public or disorderly conduct. If alcohol is involved, matters can be complicated further with a public drunk charge. It’s absolutely essential to speak with a skilled criminal defense attorney to get the charges thrown out.

There are several disorderly conduct charges in Mississippi. There is a disorderly conduct charge when a person uses profane language on a bus. Miss. Code Ann., Section 97-35-1. It is disorderly conduct when a customer interferes with another’s business. Miss. Code Ann., Section 97-35-5. One that is used very frequently in Mississippi is the “failure to comply with the commands of a police officer.” This law was passed around or during the time of the civil rights disturbances in Mississippi in order for police to arrest civil rights protestors and it is still used very frequently. Mississippi Code Ann., 97-35-7. There really are so many disorderly conduct laws on the books it is hard to list them all. (Disturbance by explosions, M.C.A., 97-35-9; Disturbance by Abusive language, M.C.A., 97-35-11; Disturbance in a Public Place, M.C.A., 97-35-13). These are not the only Disorderly Conduct or Disturbing the Peace law but it gives one a good idea of the laws in Mississippi.

Punishment

All of these offenses are misdemeanor charges except the simple assault on a law enforcement officer. Misdemeanors generally carry a punishment range from a $500.00 to $1,000.00 dollar fine and up to 6 months in jail. A new law went into effect in Mississippi in July 2014. This law is referred to by most lawyers as House Bill 585. A summary of House Bill 585 can be found on this website. It is a major overhaul of the criminal justice system and it makes some substantial and positive changes to the criminal justice system by requiring City, County and Justice Court Judges to impose probation instead of jail unless the judge can set forth reasons why probation is not appropriate.

In today’s business world a misdemeanor conviction can in some instances have long lasting and negative consequences. Why would a business want to hire a person with a misdemeanor criminal conviction when there are fifty (50) people wanting the same job without a conviction? And as stated earlier, some convictions like simple assault on family, boyfriends, girlfriends, or domestic assault revokes your right to own or possess a gun and ammunition forever! Fortunately there are laws that will allow some misdemeanor convictions to be expunged. Expunged means removed from your record. But there are also dozens upon dozens of public and private companies that search the internet daily for public records. These records are much harder to remove. There are also stories that go on the internet that are difficult if not impossible to remove.

Misdemeanor convictions can also be very harmful to professionals. There are some misdemeanors that are considered crimes of moral turpitude. A crime of moral turpitude is one that affects your credibility, your character, or your worth as a person in the eyes of the law. Whether this distinction makes sense any more is not for us to decide. A good distinction can be drawn between certain misdemeanors. For example, a driving under the influence is not a crime of moral turpitude, but lying under oath or cheating in some way is and if you are a professional, a conviction for a crime of moral turpitude may result in the revocation of your professional license.

While misdemeanors might seem like minor crimes they can have serious long term consequences. If you are charged with a crime of any type you should consult one of the experienced attorneys at Coxwell & Associates.

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