Common assault is the most common type of assault charge in Australia. For anyone facing common assault charges, here’s how the crime is defined, what penalties may apply, and how an accused person might defend the allegations against them. 


What Is a Common Assault?


Common assault is the “least” serious assault charge. It occurs when a person knowingly or recklessly causes someone harm, or makes another person fear for their physical safety.


Common assault does not require the use of physical force. So, although, for example, assault by beating could be common assault, violence is not always required.


Even if you don’t touch another person, you could still face common assault charges if you threaten someone with violence, or you make them reasonably believe you have the ability to carry out a threat against them.   


Examples of Common Assault 


Since common assault has a fairly wide definition, many actions could be considered assault. Here are some examples of what constitutes common assault in NSW.


  • Hitting or slapping another person
  • Threatening someone in such a way that makes them fear for their safety 
  • Throwing an object at a person (even if it misses) 
  • Pushing or shoving someone 
  • Spitting at a person


It’s not common assault if the accused simply fails to act e.g. fails to intervene in a fight. There must be a deliberate or reckless act which makes the alleged victim fear for their safety in some way.  


Other Types of Assault Charges


We hope you now have a better understanding of what common assault is. You also, however, should be aware that it’s not the only type of assault charge available in Australia. Other assault charges include:


  • Assault occasioning bodily harm: If the accused assaults someone and it results in actual bodily harm, including bruises, scratches, and broken bones, they may be charged with this crime. 
  • Sexual assault: In NSW, sexual assault includes touching another person sexually without permission or committing acts of gross sexual indecency.
  • Grievous bodily harm: Under Section 33(1) of the Crimes Act 1900, it’s an offense to cause “grievous” bodily harm such as disfigurement or other serious permanent injuries. 
  • Assaulting a police officer: It’s an offence to harass, intimidate, stalk, or strike a police officer while they’re performing their lawful duties.


There are many types of assault crimes in NSW – if you’re facing criminal charges, consult an experienced lawyer immediately.


Proving Common Assault 


It’s the prosecution’s responsibility to prove the common assault charges against the accused. They must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt i.e. the only logical conclusion is that the accused committed a crime. 


In common assault cases, the prosecution must prove that: 


  • The accused applied force against another person, or acted in such a way that the other person reasonably feared for their safety; 
  • The other person did not consent to the action; and 
  • The accused behaved intentionally or recklessly


If the prosecution can’t prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, the charges may be dropped or the accused can be found not guilty. 


Common Assault Penalties 


Under Section 61 of the Crimes Act 1900, individuals found guilty of common assault can be imprisoned for up to two years. However, jail is not the only option – other penalties include:


  • Community correction orders
  • Good behaviour bonds
  • Probation 
  • Fines 
  • Suspended sentences 


The penalties a person faces depend on various factors. The judge will consider their criminal record and the severity of the offence before determining an appropriate punishment. For example, threatening behaviour committed by a first-time offender may be punished less severely than physical violence committed by a repeat offender.   


Pleading Guilty or Not Guilty


In NSW, the accused can plead guilty or not guilty to common assault charges.

  • Guilty: If the accused agrees that the charges are true, they may plead guilty. Showing remorse may result in a more lenient sentence. 
  • Not Guilty: If the accused disagrees with the charges, they can plead not guilty. A criminal defence lawyer will offer advice on the best way to defend the charges.  

Anyone accused of common assault should consult an experienced lawyer before entering a plea.


Defences to Common Assault Charges


The accused can defend common assault charges if they can show that:


  • They acted in self-defence, meaning they believed they were in physical danger and took reasonable steps to defend themselves;
  • The incident was an accident and they didn’t foresee harm; 
  • The other person consented to the incident (implied consent in some contact sports);
  • Another person is responsible for the assault (mistaken identity); 
  • They were under duress (a person threatened them or their family with serious violence if they didn’t commit the assault); or
  • The action was necessary to prevent an even more serious incident.    

A criminal defence lawyer will consider the evidence against the accused and determine which defences could be helpful.  


Can Common Assault Charges Be Dropped?


Yes, common assault charges can be dropped. For example, if the evidence against someone is weak, a criminal defence attorney may be able to convince the prosecution to drop the charges. Or, the prosecution may decide not to proceed with the case at all if the alleged victim refuses to cooperate and there’s no realistic chance of a conviction. 


Your best chance of having common assault charges dropped is hiring an experienced defence attorney who can find major weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case. 


Common Assault Defence Attorney in NSW


It’s in your best interests to hire a criminal defence attorney immediately following any common assault charge. A legal professional understands how to defend assault allegations and they will help you secure a fair outcome based on the facts of your case.


At the Lyons Law Group, we’re committed to helping you face any common assault charge. Contact the Lyons Law Group to retain an experienced defence lawyer in NSW today.