Assault is generally defined as any intentional act which causes an apprehension or fear of “imminent harm or offensive contact” in the victim. 1st degree assault is a more serious form of assault, and is often specifically defined under state criminal statutes. 1st degree assault definitions may vary, but they generally include conduct such as:
- Intentional infliction of serious bodily harm upon the victim
- Intent to create harm with the use of a deadly weapon
2nd degree and 3rd degree assault involve lower levels of intent by the defendant, namely “knowingly” and “recklessly”. Thus, 1st degree is the most serious type of assault as it involves an intentional act. Some states include other types of acts under 1st degree assault, such as administering poisonous substances or committing assault of a sexual nature.
How Is 1st Degree Assault Punished?
In most states, 1st degree assault is classified as a Class B felony. Exact punishment guidelines may vary from place to place, but a Class B felony may result in punishments such as:
- A prison sentence ranging from 5 to 25 years
- Significant criminal fines of up to $30,000
- Loss of certain rights, including the right to own a firearm
Some factors will lead to increased punishments, such as:
- The type of weapon used, especially if the weapon was illegal or illegally modified
- Degree of harm to victim or degree of harm intended
- Whether or not the person was assisted by others in the assault
- Whether or not the incident was a repeat offense and the defendant has prior convictions for 1st degree assault
Are There Any Legal Defenses Available?
A person being charged with 1st degree assault may be able to claim a legal defense, depending on the circumstances. One of the more commonly-raised defenses is self-defense. In order to claim self-defense, there must be an equal amount of force involved. That is, other person must also be brandishing a deadly weapon, or had threatened to inflict serious bodily harm. Also, the person claiming a self-defense theory cannot be the one who initiated the physical altercation unless they clearly expressed their desire to disengage from the physical conflict.
Other defenses that may be available include intoxication and coercion. Defense of property is sometimes used as a defense, but the defendant must usually be facing a threat to their own safety as well.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with 1st Degree Assault Charges?
1st degree assault is one of the most serious forms of assault. You may need to hire a criminal law attorney in your area if you need assistance defending against any type of assault charge. Your attorney can help research the criminal laws in your region to determine your rights and options. Also, if you need to make any court appearances or appear before a judge, your lawyer can provide legal representation and guidance during those times as well.