The state of Washington has four different levels of assault charges. Three of the four are felonies and may count as a strike under the Washington three strikes law. Three strikes and you may spend the rest of your life in prison.
Fourth Degree Assault – RCW 9A.36.041
A person may be charged with Fourth Degree Assault if he/she assaults another person under circumstances not amounting to First, Second, or Third Degree Assault. No injury needs to occur for Assault 4 charges to be filed. The requirement is that the contact be considered “offensive by an ordinary person”. This is a Gross Misdemeanor charge with fines up to $5,000 and jail time ranging from 0-364 days. The court may also order anger management or drug treatment classes, and/or may resolve the case through probation.
Third Degree Assault – RCW 9A.36.031
A person may be charged with Third Degree Assault if he/she is accused of one of the following actions, under circumstances not amounting to First or Second Degree Assault:
*Committing assault in an effort to impede a lawful order of the court of in avoidance
of being taken into custody *Assaulting a driver of public transportation *Assaulting a school bus driver *With criminal negligence, causing bodily harm to another person with a weapon *Assaulting a firefighter *With criminal negligence, causing bodily harm accompanied by pain that extends for a period sufficient to cause considerable suffering *Assaulting a police officer *Assaulting a peace officer with a projectile sun gun *Assaulting a nurse, physician, or health care provider *Assaulting a judicial officer or court related employee *Assaulting a person located in a courtroom, jury room, judge’s chamber, etc.
Alleged assaults that may normally be considered Assault 4 can be punished as Assault 3 if the alleged assault occurs to a person performing specific occupations, as indicated above. This is a Class C Felony that carries a potential sentence of 1-3 months in prison and fines up to $10,000 for a first time offender. For repeat offenders, if may result in a prison term of up to 5 years.
Second Degree Assault –RCW 9A.36.021
A person may be charged with Second Degree Assault if he/she is accused of one of the following actions, under circumstances not amounting to First Degree Assault:
*Intentionally assaulting another and thereby recklessly inflicting substantial bodily harm *Causing substantial bodily harm to an unborn child by intentionally and unlawfully inflicting any injury upon the mother of such child *Assaulting another with a deadly weapon *Administering or causing to be taken by another, poison or any other destructive or noxious substance, with intent to inflict bodily harm
*Assaulting with intention to commit a felony *Torturing by knowingly inflicting harm causing pain or agony *Assaulting by strangulation or suffocation.
Allegations of “substantial bodily harm” may refer to broken bones or other injuries requiring medical treatment. If there is an allegation of use of a deadly weapon or choking, an injury is not required. This is a Class B Felony that carries a potential sentence of 3-12 months in prison and fines up to $20,000 for a first time offender. For repeat offenders, if may result in a prison term of up to 10 years. Second Degree Assault with a finding of sexual motivation under RCW 9.94A.835 or 13.40.135 is a Class A Felony.
First Degree Assault – RCW 9A.36.011
A person may be charged with First Degree Assault if he/she is accused of one of the following actions, with intent to inflict great bodily harm:
*Assaulting another with a firearm or any deadly weapon or by any force or means likely to produce great bodily harm or death *Administering, exposing, or transmitting to or causing to be taken by another, poison,
the human immunodeficiency virus as defined in chapter 70.24 RCW, or any other destructive or noxious substance *Assaulting another and inflicting great bodily harm.
Allegations of “great bodily harm” may refer to permanent and serious injury to another person. This is a Class A Felony that carries a potential sentence of 93-123 months in prison and fines up to $50,000 for a first time offender and life in prison for a repeat offender.
Assault Doesn’t Actually Require You to Touch Another Person
One misconception about an assault charge is that to be convicted, the person must have inflicted some harm on the victim. This is not true. The prosecuting attorney only needs to prove that the alleged assaulter had the intent to cause great bodily harm and acted in a way that made victims fear they were indeed about to be harmed or assaulted.
If you are convicted of an assault, in addition to losing your freedom, you may lose your reputation in the community and your relationship with your family. If you are divorced with children, the conviction may interfere with your custody and visitation. Some jobs will no longer be available to you if you have an assault conviction on your record whether it is misdemeanor or a felony.
Defenses to assault
You need to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney who can protect and defend your rights and discover if there are defenses available to you. For example: Were you defending yourself? Were you defending another person?
Attorney Mark A. Chmelewski has over 25 years of experience in practicing criminal law in the state of Washington. He spent years as a prosecuting attorney and 10 years as a Municipal Court Judge. He firmly believes that all clients, no matter what the charges are against them, deserve professional and ethical representation.
If you are charged with an assault or under investigation for having committed an assault, do not talk to anyone about your case, particularly law enforcement. Seek legal representation so that your rights can be protected and any potential damages can be mitigated.
Regularly representing clients in Kittitas, Yakima, Grant, Chelan and Douglas Counties.