An assault is an action with intent to cause physical harm. Assault can be raised to the level of aggravated assault, which carries more severe penalties, in a number of ways. One of the ways in which assault can be considered aggravated is when it is committed with a deadly weapon.

Since this crime is based on the intention to harm, no actual physical harm has to occur. The intended victim may escape injury, but if they were attacked by someone, who had a deadly weapon and the intent to harm, then the crime has already been committed.

The crime is also still formed if the person committing the assault didn’t actually intend to harm the victim, but only to make them think they would. For example, if someone points a gun at someone else to make they fear they will be shot, assault with a deadly weapon has been committed.

If actual physical contact is made, then it is generally considered that the crime of battery has been committed, in addition to assault. However, laws on assault and battery can vary widely from state to state in the U.S., so it is important to become acquainted with your state’s laws.

What is Considered to Be a Deadly Weapon?

This may also vary by state. However, there are generally two categories of deadly weapons. The first category includes weapons that are, by their very nature, capable of or intended to cause injury or death in others. These types of weapons include:

  • Firearms (ex: pistol, shotgun, rifle, machine gun)
  • Knives of a certain length
  • Specific types of knives, such as switchblades
  • Swords and daggers
  • Brass knuckles
  • Throwing stars

The second category of weapons is more open to interpretation. Everyday objects can become lethal when used with physical violence against a person. For example, here are some items commonly at issue as deadly weapons in assault cases:

  • Sticks or pipes
  • Wrenches
  • Hammers and other hand tools
  • Clothing (belts)
  • Sharp objects

In some cases, even certain animals can be considered deadly weapons. A common example of this is a pet dog that has been trained to be overly aggressive, or to attack upon command.

What are the Penalties for Assault with a Deadly Weapon?

In most cases, assault with a deadly weapon (considered aggravated assault in most jurisdictions) is a felony offense. Felonies are serious crimes, which carry penalties such as substantial jail time, and financial penalties.

In addition, the convicted person may face other losses, including the loss of the right to carry a firearm. Being convicted of a felony may also make it more difficult to secure employment in the future.

Are there any Defenses to Assault with a Deadly Weapon?

One of the most common defenses to this crime is consent. If the intended “victim” actually consented to the assault with a deadly weapon, this may mitigate the charges for the person who committed the act.

Defense of property may also serve as a legal defense. The person charged with the crime may attempt to prove that they were defending their property. For instance, a person may try to defend their home with a deadly weapon if someone breaks in.

Self-defense is a common legal defense to assault with a deadly weapon. If attacked, someone may use a deadly weapon to defend themselves. This usually only applies if the victim of the assault actually started the confrontation leading to the assault charges.

Other defenses may include insufficient evidence, intoxication, duress (the person was forced to wield the weapon), and some other defenses. Proof for each category of defense will depend on the various facts involved in the crime.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Assist Me with Charges of Assault with a Deadly Weapon?

If you have been charged with assault with a deadly weapon, or have reason to believe that you may be charged, you should contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Assault with a deadly weapon, or aggravated assault, is a serious crime which could result in serious penalties, including jail time.

A local criminal defense attorney, familiar with the laws and court system in your jurisdiction, can help you face these charges, if they are made against you.