The term “assault” takes on several different definitions according to the court:
- Felonius assault is an unlawful attack that causes injury to another person and typically creates a need for immediate medical attention
- Simple assault involves no weapons, and the injury to the other party is typically minor
- Aggravated assault involves the use of a weapon, such as a gun or knife, with enough force to cause serious injury
- Physical assault is the term for grievous bodily harm, which could result in the death of the other person
- Sexual assault is defined as the use of force against the victim’s will, such as in cases of rape, molestation or other offenses
- Verbal assault involves no physical harm, but could result in mental or psychological injury to the victim
As part of the investigation for assault and other crimes, police may seek entry into your home or workplace looking for evidence. It’s not unusual to have investigators confiscate computers, hard drives, printers (which often have a record of print jobs), scanners and other technology.
Depending on the nature of the assault, the police also seek out weapons or spent ammunition, blood stains, fingerprints, examples of torn clothing or damaged vehicles and other material evidence that may be used in court.
As a defendant in an assault case, such forensic evidence helps determine whether you acted in self-defense, or had the consent of the plaintiff (in cases of martial arts or wrestling mishaps, for example), or were reasonably unaware that your actions could cause harm – all considered defenses by the court.
Victims of sexual assault range in age from infants to people in their nineties – male and female. Not all assaults are reported to the police, particularly if the accused is a spouse/partner or relative of the victim.
In a case of sexual assault, investigators turn to DNA for evidence. In the immediate aftermath of an alleged attack, victims of sexual assault are advised to avoid showering or bathing, using the restroom, combing hair, changing clothes or cleaning up the crime scene – anything that may compromise the collection of DNA.
“It’s important that law enforcement and investigators receive special training on the handling of DNA evidence to avoid contamination or destruction,” notes the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. “DNA evidence can be contaminated, for instance, if it comes into contact with another person’s DNA, or is exposed to heat, humidity, bacteria and other environmental conditions.”
As part of the investigation, the victim is subject to a forensic medical exam at a hospital or other healthcare facility. Such an exam is not required (meaning the accuser can accept or decline the examination), but is considered a vital step – not just to collect DNA evidence but to determine if the alleged victim is suffering from any additional injuries or disorders tied to the assault.
The investigators request a complete medical history of the victim, and then conduct a head-to-toe examination which includes an internal exam. The evidence collected here may include blood, urine or hair, plus signs of struggle such as bruises or scrapes. Undergarments are collected along with other clothing.
Evidence is stored in a package known as a “rape kit,” which is kept by the medical examiner until it is taken by the law enforcement team or crime lab.
Accused of Assault?
If you are accused of or arrested on charges of aggravated, physical or sexual assault, it is important to seek out highly trained legal representation for your case. Call on an attorney with prior defense experience and be prepared to answer many challenging questions.
*Image courtesy of Sascha Kohlmann