What is Assault?
What is Assault?
Like many types of charges, assault charges are not always straightforward. Depending on what type of assault you are charged with, you may be facing a misdemeanor or a felony charge.
When we think about assault, we imagine one person beating another with their fists. However, the legal definition of assault is much broader than that, referring to any action that is carried out with the intention of causing harm to another person.
Degrees of Assault
Under Washington law, there are four degrees of assault charges. Assault in the first degree is the most serious assault charge, while assault in the fourth degree is the least serious. There is no doubt, however, that any assault charge is a serious charge, and even the least serious assault charges are gross misdemeanors.
A guilty plea or conviction for even the least serious assault charge can have serious consequences that will last a lifetime.
Some specific types of assault are defined in Washington law. For example, attacking an individual who is working as a healthcare provider, bus driver, firefighter or police officer will always, at minimum, be considered third-degree assault and charged as a felony—even if the actions in question would have otherwise been classified as fourth-degree assault had the victim not been assaulted while on duty.
Assault in the first degree is the most serious type of assault. In general, it’s reserved for cases where the victim was seriously injured or there was an intent to seriously injure or kill the victim. First-degree assault can include poisoning another person; an example in this vein is intentionally exposing someone to HIV. First-degree assault also includes any attack involving the use of a firearm or other deadly weapon.
Assault in the second degree is slightly less serious, but is still a felony. It includes many of the same provisions as assault in the first degree, but with intent as the main point of difference. Those charged with second-degree assault are deemed to have intended “substantial” bodily harm rather than “great” bodily harm.
Fourth-degree assault is any type of assault that is not serious enough to rise to the level of first- or second-degree assault.
If you or someone you know has been accused of assault, it’s important to work with a legal team that understands the relevant law. The distinctions between the degrees of assault charges leave room for interpretation, so you need a lawyer who has experience working on these types of cases.
There are two primary defense strategies in assault cases. The defense’s legal team must either show that the defendant did not commit the assault that he or she is accused of committing, or they must establish that the defendant was acting in self-defense or in the defense of others. If successful, the defendant may be able to recover his or her legal fees.
The bottom line is that assault is a very serious charge, and you should take your defense strategy very seriously.
Have you or someone you know been accused of assault? Contact the Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers at Baker, Lewis, Schwisow & Laws
The expert defense team at Baker, Lewis, Schwisow & Laws, PLLC vigorously defend the rights of individuals facing a multitude of charges in Seattle, Bellevue, and Kirkland. Contact us today at 206.209.0608 or fill out our online contact form to get more information or to get a free case review!