Assault is defined as any intentional act that causes a “fear of imminent” bodily harm or offensive touching. In most jurisdictions, assault is sub-divided into degrees. Assault does not require that touching actually occur. So long as the person reasonably fears that the contact will occur, a court can often make a finding of assault. 

Though exact definitions may vary, the degrees of assault are often characterized as follows:

  • 1st Degree: Intentional infliction of the fear of serious bodily harm, or intentional fear of injury caused with a deadly weapon
  • 2nd Degree: Knowingly inflicting a fear of serious bodily injury, or knowingly inflicting a fear of injuries with a deadly weapon
  • 3rd Degree: Reckless infliction of the fear of serious bodily injury, or recklessly causing a fear of injury with the use of a deadly weapon.

Thus, 3rd degree assault is often the least serious form of assault in most states. 1st and 2nd degree assault charges usually involve a more intentional, deliberate act, and usually result in more serious criminal penalties than 3rd degree assault.

What Are the Penalties for 3rd Degree Assault?

In many states, 3rd degree assault is prosecuted as a Class A misdemeanor. These types of crimes are punishable by a maximum of one year in a county jail and a criminal fine, which can be up to $1,000. In contrast, 1st and 2nd degree assault charges are usually classified as felonies, resulting in more serious consequences. However, state laws vary regarding the details of the criminal punishments for 3rd degree assault. For instance, some states automatically process 3rd degree assault as a felony.

What Is a Wobbler Offense?

In some states, 3rd degree assault may be considered a “wobbler offense.” A wobbler offense is a crime that can be charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony. Thus, in certain cases, 3rd degree assault can result in criminal consequences that are more comparable to those for a felony than a misdemeanor. Some factors that might cause a 3rd degree assault charge to result in felony consequences are:

  • Repeat offenses, which can result in more serious consequences
  • Degree of bodily harm intended or inflicted, as greater injuries often lead to greater penalties
  • Type of weapon used, since the use of a more dangerous weapon or an illegal weapon can result in greater penalties
  • Characteristics of the victim, as assault on a police officer, domestic partner, or minor may result in felony charges

Conversely, charges for assault may also be reduced to a lesser assault charge such as a 4th degree assault charge, depending on the circumstances in the case.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Assistance with 3rd Degree Assault Charges?

Assault charges and definitions can often be quite complex, since there may be many different degrees and levels of assault. These definitions will vary widely from state to state and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. It may be in your best interests to hire a local criminal defense attorney for assistance with any charges. Your criminal lawyer can provide you with legal advice, research, and guidance when it comes to the laws in your area. Also, if your attorney can represent and guide you during any court meetings or hearings.