Assault Defense Attorneys

One of the most frequent crimes that we see our clients prosecuted for is assault.  The setting and circumstance can vary greatly in each case, but the definition of assault remains the same.  This definition is described in the the Washington Pattern Jury Instruction 35.50:


An assault is an intentional touching, or striking, or, cutting, or, shooting of another person, with unlawful force, that is harmful or offensive regardless of whether any physical injury is done to the person. A touching, or striking, or, cutting, or, shooting is offensive if the touching, or striking, or, cutting, or, shooting would offend an ordinary person who is not unduly sensitive.

An assault is also an act, with unlawful force, done with intent to inflict bodily injury upon another, tending but failing to accomplish it and accompanied with the apparent present ability to inflict the bodily injury if not prevented. It is not necessary that bodily injury be inflicted.

An assault is also an act, with unlawful force, done with the intent to create in another apprehension and fear of bodily injury, and which in fact creates in another a reasonable apprehension and imminent fear of bodily injury even though the actor did not actually intend to inflict bodily injury.

An act is not an assault, if it is done with the consent of the person alleged to be assaulted.

This legal definition is a little bit confusing, but boils down to a few legal principles:  

1) assault is harmful or offensive touching.  It does not have to hurt someone, but only has to be harmful or offensive.  This means that if I put my arm around someone in a bar, and they are offended by me, that can be assault.  The law does provide protection against those who are "unduly sensitive".  So for instance someone who is offended when I shake their hand, upon meeting them, is likely to be found "unduly sensitive" by a judge or jury, and an assault charge is unlikely.

2) If I try to assault someone, but miss, it is still assault.  Therefore if I shoot at someone and miss, or take a swing at someone and miss, it is still assault.  Also if I try to assault someone and miss, but instead assault an unintended second person by mistake, I can still be guilty of assault against the second person.

3)  If I pull a gun or knife, or in some way threaten someone with harm, it is still assault even if I did not intend to harm them.  We seen may people charged with this crime for brandishing a gun or knife.  Even if they didn't intent to shoot or stab the person, they can be convicted of assault if the other person believes that they would.

4) A person can consent to an assault.  Otherwise we would never be able to play contact sports or engage in many activities that we cherish.  

Degrees of Assault:

Assault 4 - Assault in the Fourth Degree:

This charge is brought when someone has harmful or offensive contact with another.

People are often prosecuted for this crime when they push, punch, kick, or spit on someone, but there is no lasting damage from the assault.  We see this charge in the domestic violence context, as well as in bar fights and other minor assaults.

This offense is classified as a Gross Misdemeanor, which can result in being jailed for up to 364 days, and a fine of up to $5.000.00.

Assault 3 - Assault in the Third Degree:

This charge is brought in several circumstances:

1) when someone with criminal negligence, causes bodily harm to another person by means of a weapon or other instrument or thing likely to produce bodily harm;

2) assaults a person in a protected class, while they are doing their duty.  Examples: court employees; security officers; police officers; bus drivers; nurses; firefighters; doctors or other legislatively protected people.

3) assaults someone in, or adjacent to a courtroom.

We see this crime charged most often when someone resists arrest by a police officer, but there are many ways this crime can be charged.

This offense is classified as a Class C Felony, which can result in imprisonment for up to five years, and a fine of up to $10.000.00.

Assault 2 - Assault in the Second Degree:

This charge is brought in several circumstances:

1) when someone intentionally assaults another person and recklessly causes substantial bodily harm;

2) assaults a pregnant woman and harms the unborn child;

3) assaults someone with a deadly weapon;

4) administers a poisonous or destructive substance to another;

5) assaults someone in the commission of any felony;

6) strangles someone;

7) tortures someone.

We see this crime charged most often when there was an assault that resulted in a black eye, broken bone, or disfiguring injury.  Also, this is the likeliest charge when any strangulation occurs, especially in the domestic violence context.

This offense is classified as a Class B Felony, which can result in imprisonment for up to ten years, and a fine of up to $20.000.00.

However, if this charge is sexually motivated, it is then classified as a Class A Felony, which can result in imprisonment for life, and a fine of up to $50.000.00.

Assault 1 - Assault in the First Degree

This charge is brought when someone assaults another person with the intent to inflict great bodily harm, or assaults another and actually causes great bodily harm.

This is presumed when the assault is threatened or accomplished by using a firearm or deadly weapon, when exposing another to the HIV virus, or exposing someone to any poisonous or noxious substance.

We see this crime charged when someone shoots someone, stabs someone, or otherwise endangers their life by causing great bodily harm.

This offense is classified as a Class A Felony, which can result in imprisonment for life, and a fine of up to $50.000.00.

Defenses to Assault

There are many reasons that someone could commit an assault and not be criminally responsible.  Some of these are consent; self-defense; defense of others; defense of property; aiding a police officer; detaining a trespasser and many others.  Defenses to assault are very fact specific, and may need to be proven by the defense when someone is accused of assault.

In some cases, the Washington legislature has allowed those accused of assault, who are found not-guilty, to recoup the cost of their legal defense.  To see if this is a possibility, you should consult with one of the attorneys in this office.

Our Experience with Assault Charge Defense is Your Advantage

When you are facing assault charges, we can help. Call us at (253) 867-2675 to schedule a free initial consultation. Our criminal defense attorneys are standing by to assist you.

Newton & Hall | Criminal Lawyers

Criminal defense provided with professional integrity by caring and experienced lawyers. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Serving the greater Puget Sound region from our Kent and Bellevue Washington offices.

King County Criminal Defense Attorneys

When you are facing serious criminal charges, we can help. Call us at either (253) 867-2675 KENT or (425) 320-4644 BELLEVUE to schedule a free initial consultation.