Assault

What is Assault?

Assault is generally defined as an act intended to cause apprehension of harmful contact that actually causes such apprehension in the victim. This means that a person can commit an assault even if he does not make physical contact with the victim. In Washington State, there are four levels of the offense: assault in the first degree, assault in the second degree, assault in the third degree, and assault in the fourth degree.

Assault in the First Degree:

According to RCW §9A.36.011, a person commits assault in the first degree if he, with intent to inflict great bodily harm:

  1. Assaults another with a firearm or any deadly weapon or by any force or means likely to produce great bodily harm or death; or
  2. Exposes another to poison, the human immunodeficiency virus, or any other destructive or noxious substance; or
  3. Assaults another AND inflicts great bodily harm.

Penalties for Assault in the First Degree in Washington:

Assault in the first degree is a class A felony, which RCW §9A.20.021 defines as punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison, a maximum fine of $50,000, or both.

Assault in the Second Degree:

According to RCW §9A.36.021, a person commits assault in the second degree if he, under circumstances not amounting to assault in the first degree:

  1. Assaults another and thereby recklessly inflicts substantial bodily harm; or
  2. Assaults another with a deadly weapon; or
  3. Assaults another with the intent to commit a felony

A person also commits assault in the second degree if he causes harm to an unborn child by intentionally injuring the mother, exposes another to poison or another noxious substance, knowingly inflicts harm and suffering equal to that produced by torture, or assaults by strangulation or suffocation.

Penalties for Assault in the Second Degree in Washington:

Assault in the second degree is usually a class B felony, which RCW §9A.20.021 defines as punishable by a maximum sentence of ten years in prison, a maximum fine of $20,000, or both.

However, if a person commits assault in the second degree with sexual motivation, he has committed a class A felony.

Assault in the Third Degree:

According to RCW §9A.36.031, a person commits assault in the third degree if he, under circumstances not amounting to assault in the first or second degree:

  • Assaults another with the intent to prevent or resist execution of any lawful process; or
  • With criminal negligence, causes bodily harm to another person by means of a weapon or other harmful instrument; or
  • With criminal negligence, causes bodily harm accompanied by substantial pain that extends for a period sufficient to cause considerable suffering

A person also commits assault in the third degree if he assaults a law enforcement officer, peace officer, nurse, physician, judicial officer, court-related employee, firefighter, transit operator, school bus driver, among other persons acting in a professional capacity or in a professional environment.

Penalties for Assault in the Third Degree in Washington:

Assault in the third degree is a class C felony, which RCW §9A.20.021 defines as punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.

Assault in the Fourth Degree:

According to RCW §9A.36.041, a person commits assault in the fourth degree if he assaults another under circumstances not amounting to assault in the first, second, or third degree.

Penalties for Assault in the Fourth Degree in Washington:

Assault in the fourth degree is a gross misdemeanor, which RCW §9A.20.021 defines as punishable by a maximum sentence of one year in prison, a maximum fine of $5,000, or both.

Defending an Assault Charge:

A charge of assault requires the offender to act with intent. One defense might be that the person charged did not act with the intent to cause apprehension of physical harm in the victim. Another defense might be that the act did not, in fact, cause such apprehension in the victim. Other common defenses to a charge of assault are self-defense, defense of others, or defense of property. The best course of action depends on the individual case. It is crucial that you enlist in the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney to develop the strongest defense strategy possible for your case.