Assault is defined as an intentional act that causes the victim to fear that she will suffer physical harm. It does not require any physical contact. In that regard, a person who verbally threatens another without laying a hand on her can still be found guilty of assault.
The elements of assault vary from state to state, but degrees of assault can be first degree, second degree, or third degree.
- First Degree Assault: the intentional causing of serious bodily harm or serious bodily injury to another person with a deadly weapon.
- Second Degree Assault: when someone knowingly causes serious bodily injury, knowingly causes injury with a deadly weapon, or recklessly causes serious physical injury to another.
- Third Degree Assault: when a defendant recklessly causes serious bodily injury or recklessly causes injury with a deadly weapon.
It’s important to note that the difference between the assault degrees depends on the intent and state of mind of the defendant. The more intentional the act, the more serious the charges, and the more severe the punishment.
Whether second degree assault is a misdemeanor or felony largely depends on the facts of the case and where the assault occurred, as the laws differ in each state. For instance, in Colorado, second degree assault is a felony punishable by up to 12 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.
Conversely, in Maryland, second degree assault is a misdemeanor, but it carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Other states have penalties as few as two years and others up to 20 years in prison. People who are repeat offenders may have longer sentences and greater fines.
Yes. As with any criminal charge, a person who is accused of second degree assault may claim a legal defense. Below are some common defenses:
- Self-Defense: A person who uses reasonable force to defend himself against another can claim self-defense.
- Insanity: Under this theory, the defendant can claim that he is “insane” and therefore did not have the requisite intent to commit the criminal act.
- Intoxication: Just like with the insanity defense, a person who is under the influence may not have had the intent to commit the crime (i.e. too inebriated or high to know what they were doing and didn’t have the intent to do what they did).
- Entrapment: Entrapment is a practice that occurs when law enforcement induces a person to commit a crime that he would not have committed without being induced.
For instance, a person who is held in custody and questioned for 48 hours straight without water or food by police can claim entrapment if he finally “snaps” and assaults a police officer. However, if the judge or jury believes the defendant is predisposed to this type of behavior, the defense will not be successful.
Assault charges can often have varied levels of complexity depending on state and local laws. You may need to hire a criminal lawyer in your area if you need assistance with any types of criminal charges. Your lawyer can provide you with legal research and advice regarding your criminal defense strategy. Also, your attorney can accompany you during court hearings and provide representation during the process.