The curious thing about Washington’s law concerning assault is that there is no statute which defines the term “assault.” As a result the Washington Supreme Court has drafted a definition which contains three alternative means for committing an assault: (1) battery; (2) attempted battery; and (3) creating an apprehension of bodily harm. The Washington statute does define four different degrees of assault – first, second, third and fourth degree. What separates these crimes is the harm or injury to the victim. The most serious of these is first degree assault which includes the intentional infliction of great bodily harm on another. Assault in the first degree is a Class “A” felony. The sentencing statute of Washington provides that no judge may sentence defendant to less than five years of incarceration in the Department of Corrections for a conviction of assault in the first degree.

The assault statute defines that a second degree assault can be committed in one of six (6) means. The statute provides that a person must: (1) intentionally assault another and thereby recklessly inflict substantial bodily harm; (2) intentionally and unlawfully cause substantial bodily harm to an unborn quick child by injuring the mother; (3) assault another with a deadly weapon or with intent to commit a felony; (4) with intent to inflict bodily harm, cause another to take poison or any other destructive or noxious substance; (5) knowingly inflict bodily harm which by design causes such pain or agony as to be the equivalent of that produced by torture, or (6) assault another by strangulation or suffocation. Assault in the second degree is a Class “B” felony.

The third degree assault statute contains two different types of provisions. The provisions in the first group protect persons in public positions (i.e., court officers, firefights, law enforcement personnel, transit and school bus drivers, persons performing health care duties.). The second provisions involve the criminally negligent infliction of bodily harm. Assault in the third degree is a Class “C” felony.

Assault in the fourth degree involves all other assaults not covered by the other provisions. Fourth degree assault is a gross misdemeanor.

There are a number of defenses to an assault charge. Aside from the general defenses such as alibi, an assault, by definition, requires the use of unlawful force. Where there is an issue of self-defense, the Government is required to prove that the defendant did not act in self-defense. This means that the Government first must prove to a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the assault was not committed in self-defense. Additionally, intoxication is a defense to all forms of assault that require an intent element. This means that the jury can consider the effects of intoxicants on the defendant and whether the defendant acted with intent to commit the alleged assault.

Given the complexities of the law concerning the crime of assault a person should not try to explain themselves to the police or prosecutors. You should speak with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney to know your rights. Call Philip E. Thornton for a free consultation. I will speak with you to learn the individual and unique aspects of your situation and together will formulate the best defense strategy for you. You may have a viable and legally justifiable defense to the charge. The government may have unnecessarily charged you with a higher degree of crime than the circumstances warrant. The police may have failed to properly follow procedures before collection any evidence or obtaining your statement. Contact Philip E. Thornton immediately.

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