In a criminal law setting, the term deadly weapon generally refers to a firearm. The term deadly weapon may also refer to any other object that is used or intended to be used in such a way that it could cause serious injury or death to another human being. 

Legally, the term deadly weapon covers objects that most ordinary people would not think of as deadly weapons. Defendants have been found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon for having utilized such items as baseball bats, knives, and guns. Some other examples include intentionally striking another driver or pedestrian with a motor vehicle, or running after a person with an ax.

The legal definition of what constitutes a deadly weapon is intentionally broad. This was intentional, in order to avoid as many loopholes as possible. Some examples of items that may be considered a deadly weapon have included:

  • Broken bottles;
  • Dogs;
  • Power tools;
  • Gardening tools;
  • Blunt objects; and
  • Boats.

In some states, a person’s hands, feet, or teeth can be considered to be deadly weapons. Although the human body itself is not a deadly weapon, legally speaking, it can certainly be used in such a way as to cause another person great bodily injury or death.

Other states, such as California, specifically exclude the human body from the definition of a deadly weapon. However, California law also states that use of “any means of force likely to produce great bodily injury,” would warrant a charge for assault with a deadly weapon. If someone attacks a person by choking, kicking, or punching, they could face a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. Again, this will vary from state to state.

Something else to consider is that the weapons that are considered to be deadly weapons for the purposes of an assault with a deadly weapon charge might also constitute illegal weapons. Items such as billy clubs, switchblades, and cane swords are other uncommon items that can be used to cause serious injury or death. 

Whether it is illegal to possess such weapons depends on the law in the state in which a person lives. An example of this would be how a baseball bat is not technically an illegal weapon, but it could be considered a deadly weapon if used in the course of the crime of assault. Alternatively, a switchblade is a deadly weapon; and, possession of a switchblade is illegal in some, but not all, states. The law varies from state to state.

What Is Assault With a Deadly Weapon? What Are Some Examples of Assault With a Deadly Weapon?

An assault occurs when someone physically harms or wants to harm another person. Assault can also occur when one person makes the other person believe or fear that they are going to be hurt. An injury does not necessarily have to occur for an incident to be considered assault; simply the existence of fear of possible injury is enough to be considered an assault.

Assault with a deadly weapon is similar to assault, in that actual bodily harm does not need to happen. Assault with a deadly weapon has the added element of the use of, or the intention to use, a deadly weapon. Some courts rule assault with a deadly weapon as an aggravated assault. Simply put, to aggravate a crime means to make the crime more serious. Assault with a deadly weapon is considered to be a felony crime in most states, although this could also vary from state to state.

To reiterate, it is important to remember that the weapon does not have to actually cause physical harm to another person in order for the crime to be considered assault with a deadly weapon. The crime can occur and be prosecuted if the victim feels threatened and/or afraid that they might be hurt, or even possibly killed.

An example of this would be if someone points a gun at another person and threatens to pull the trigger, but does not do so. The person wielding the gun has potentially committed the crime of assault with a deadly weapon. This would be due to the fact that the victim most likely felt seriously threatened, and feared for their life.

Other examples of assault with a deadly weapon may include, but not be limited to:

  • Someone swinging a baseball bat and threatens to hit another person with the bat;
  • A person repeatedly uses their fists to punch another person, knocking them unconscious;
  • Someone threatens to stab another person with a chunk of broken glass;
  • An individual attacks another person and hits them repeatedly on the head with their purse; and/or
  • A driver purposely runs someone down with their car.

The courts must review every case on its own merits, which means on a case by case basis. This is because the court must determine how exactly the potentially deadly weapon was used, as well as how it was perceived by the victim. These factors will obviously differ from case to case, and can often be difficult to determine. 

Are There Any Defenses to Assault With a Deadly Weapon?

When ruling on cases involving assault with a deadly weapon, the courts will consider state laws as well as the evidence presented to them regarding the case. The courts will also consider whether there is a valid defense for the use of the deadly weapon. Alternatively, the court may need to determine whether a deadly weapon was actually used at all during the assault.

Some of the possible defenses to assault with a deadly weapon may include:

  • Self-defense, or the defense of another person;
  • Mistake or misinterpretation on the victim’s part;
  • There was no object used, only words were exchanged between the parties; and 
  • The defendant did not actually possess the needed intent to harm the victim.

What Are the Consequences of an Assault With a Deadly Weapon Charge? How Much Jail Time Is It? 

The consequences of an assault with a deadly weapon charge will vary from state to state, as well as whether the crime is considered to be a felony. Further, if no valid defenses can be applied to the charge of assault with a deadly weapon, serious consequences may result. Courts across the United States consider the crime of assault with a deadly weapon to be particularly serious.

As previously mentioned, some courts consider assault with a deadly weapon to be an aggravated assault. Additionally, assault with a deadly weapon is considered to be a felony crime in most states because it is a crime that involves violence. Generally speaking, jail time for assault with a deadly weapon consists of one year or more to be spent in a federal prison facility. Other legal punishments for felony crimes include criminal fines that could reach $10,000.

In some states, assault with a deadly weapon is a wobbler. Meaning, it may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the facts of each specific case. Misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon can be punished by up to a year in jail, whereas the felony crime can be punished by up to four years in prison.

Should I Speak to an Attorney if I’m Facing Assault With a Deadly Weapon Charges?

If you are facing assault with a deadly weapon charges, it is imperative that you consult with a criminal lawyer. An experienced and local criminal defense attorney will ensure you understand the charges you are facing, as well as your rights and any potential penalties you may be facing. The attorney will also work to construct a solid legal defense, and can represent you in court as needed.