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Explainer: How hard do you have to hit someone to get charged with assault?

Richard North

Last baseball season, San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow was beaten outside Dodger Stadium, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury and, over a year later, still recuperating. 

Last week, a fight outside Dodger Stadium sent one man to the hospital (he was soon after released). Four were arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.

In the Stow case, attackers were charged with felony assault and, more recently after police raided their home, federal weapons charges. In the second case, though originally arrested for assault, the assailants will not face felony charges. As of Tuesday, attorneys in the City Attorney's Office are still reviewing the case to see if the assailants can be charged with misdemeanor battery. What's the difference?

According to Loyola Law Professor Stan Goldman, who specializes in criminal law and procedure, it's pretty much a judgment call on the part of the prosecutor. But the choice generally comes down to how much damage was done and how much damage could have been done.