Under state and federal criminal laws, “deadly weapon” refers to firearms and an instrument specifically designed and produced to inflict serious injury or death. The term may include:
- Various types of knives
- Billy clubs
- Bludgeons and nunchaku
- Brass knuckles
There may be some deviations in deadly weapon laws from region to region. For the most part, the fundamental idea is the same- any instrument that’s created to kill or cause serious physical harm can be considered a deadly weapon. Deadly weapons often need a license to own or carry them.
Can Everyday Items be Considered Deadly Weapons?
In addition, everyday items can be categorized as deadly weapons. This all depends on the way that the item is used. For instance, if a pair of scissors is used to impose serious harm on another individual, the scissors may be deemed a deadly weapon, even though they weren’t created for that purpose.
Other examples of everyday objects that are often used as deadly weapons may include:
- Sports gear like baseball bats or golf clubs
- Sticks or branches
- Chains or other metal items
- Sharp implements like shaving razors or even pencils
- Things that can be thrown
Some jurisdictions even consider pets such as dogs as deadly weapons, depending on the circumstances. For instance, if the dog has been trained to attack on command and the owner commands it, it might be deemed a deadly weapon. Also, in some areas, the hands and feet of a trained martial arts expert (like a black belt) must be registered as deadly weapons.
Can Deadly Weapons be Used for Self-Defense?
The general rule is that you can only use deadly force when it comes to self-defense laws if deadly force is used against you first. For instance, if someone fires a gun at you, you will likely be allowed to defend yourself with a gun or other deadly weapon.
On the other hand, if a person attacks you with only their fists, you likely can’t use a deadly weapon against them. Also, if you have attacked someone using a deadly weapon, most laws would permit them to defend themselves using a deadly weapon.
What if a Deadly Weapon is Used During a Crime?
The use of a deadly weapon during the enactment of a crime is known as an “aggravating factor.” It can turn what is usually a misdemeanor charge into a felony charge. For instance, assault is typically a misdemeanor offense that results in small criminal fines and jail time of up to one year.
Yet, if a deadly weapon is used in the assault, the charges become “aggravated assault,” a felony charge resulting in higher fines and prison time of greater than one year. The use of a deadly weapon is common in many other crimes, such as a battery, car-jacking, shoplifting, and many types of theft crimes.
What Is an Aggravated Assault?
Assault, according to criminal law, is defined as an intentional act that causes the fear of imminent harmful or offensive touching. Assault is commonly associated with battery, defined as an intentional physical act that results in a harmful or offensive touching of a person without that individual’s permission.
Aggravated assault is a crime deemed a more severe form of assault and battery, which may result in a criminal felony charge. It generally consists of physical actions that cause severe bodily harm, such as an assault with a deadly weapon (such as a pistol, knife, brass knuckles, etc.) or an assault involving another aggravating factor.
Many states’ criminal laws categorize assaults as either simple or aggravated, depending on the severity of the harm or the likely harm if the assaulter had struck the victim. And some states may further classify aggravated assault as first-degree, second-degree, or third-degree assault based on the gravity of the harm imposed.
What Are Examples Of Aggravating Factors?
The phrase aggravating factor refers to any circumstance related to the crime in question, which somehow worsens the crime itself. Aggravating factors are vital because they could greatly increase a crime’s penalty. What could comprise an aggravating factor is specified by statute; as such, examples of aggravating factors differ widely according to each jurisdiction.
Some examples of commonly accepted factors include but may not be limited to:
- Previous criminal record;
- Tool(s) used to commit the crime;
- Cruelty, or how the crime was committed; or
Other aggravating factors may include the status of the victim, the intent of the attacker, or the extent of injury that was inflicted. Specific state regulations may name the aggravating factor, such as assault with a deadly weapon or assault with intent to carry out another crime.
Aggravated assault is also referred to as felony assault. Felony assault could be represented using the same underlying concept as a misdemeanor assault; in this circumstance, some additional factor is added that causes the crime to be considered as one that is harsher.
As such, the crime carries more serious consequences. An assault would likely be charged as a felony when the defendant commits a simple assault and involves some extra aggravating factor.
What Should I Do If I’ve Been Accused of Aggravated Assault?
If you have been accused of aggravated assault, you should immediately consult with a criminal defense lawyer. Aggravated assault is a severe crime and carries heavy criminal charges and consequences. Generally speaking, the punishments for aggravated assault are the same as a conviction of an average assault and battery. Yet, the penalties are elevated to a much more significant degree.
These consequences could include but may not be limited to:
- Long term imprisonment;
- The crime being included in the defendant’s criminal record;
- Increased fines;
- Loss of the right to possess deadly weapons; or
- Other civil liabilities such as compensating the victim for any injuries or losses that resulted from the aggravated assault.
There are some actions you may take to help defeat aggravated assault charges. These efforts begin with hiring an attorney to defend you and your rights in court. Further, maintaining as much evidence to support your case will improve your chances of beating an aggravated assault charge.
How Can I Prevent Aggravating Factors From Being Used Against Me?
As mentioned above, the prosecution must demonstrate that an aggravating factor exists beyond a reasonable doubt. So, one way to stop the prosecution from arguing aggravating factors at sentencing would be to aggressively defend against the prosecution’s case for the existence of an aggravating factor.
For instance, the defendant would want to question the prosecution’s evidence and work to exclude it by arguing that it is not admissible for various reasons. The evidence might not be admissible because it is the outcome of an illegal search or seizure. Or, some evidence might be inadmissible as hearsay. There are several ways to exclude evidence, and a defense lawyer would want to study them all.
Ultimately, even if aggravating factors are established, the defense can raise any mitigating factors to counter the aggravating factors and lower the sentence. Mitigating factors are circumstances related to the crime or the defendant in question to lessen the defendant’s sentence.
Such elements can include the defendant’s remorse, their lack of a previous criminal record, the insignificant role that the defendant played in the crime, the defendant’s drug addiction, and, hopefully, their efforts to combat their addiction. Any factors that lessen the defendant’s guilt would be mitigation factors.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance With Deadly Weapons Laws?
Deadly weapons laws can significantly affect a person’s rights regarding certain objects’ use, possession, and ownership. If you need help with deadly weapons laws or are facing criminal charges, you should speak with an attorney immediately.
A qualified criminal defense lawyer can help explain how the laws in your area work and provide you with expert representation in a court of law.