Assault Laws in Washington State
You may have found yourself charged with the crime of assault for one of many reasons:
- An assault may occur when you’ve harmfully or offensively touched another person and that touching was not consented to or allowed. The person you’ve been accused of assaulting does not have to have been in fear of you.
- An assault may also occur when contact with another person happens indirectly. For example, if a person throws an object at another person, misses but hits a window, and the broken glass from the window hits that person, you may be charged with assault. Even if you didn’t intend to injure a person, but they become injured by your actions, this may be an assault.
In Washington, the crime of assault is separated into four degrees. The degree of assault you are charged with depends upon the conduct involved in the alleged assault. If law enforcement is contacted regarding an alleged assault, a prosecutor will decide if charges are filed or not; it does not matter if the alleged victim wants the charges to be filed. There do not have to be witnesses.
Read below as we discuss 4th Degree Assault, 3rd Degree Assault, 2nd Degree Assault and 1st Degree Assault
If you have been accused of Assault, contact one of our skilled Criminal Defense Attorneys today! Call (206) 866-6739 or complete our online form here.
What is 4th Degree Assault?
A person is guilty of the crime of assault in the 4th degree when:
- they assault a person, and
- the act occurs in the State of Washington;
- the circumstances of the assault must not amount to assault in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree.
Assault in the 4th degree is a gross misdemeanor meaning it carries a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. There is no mandatory minimum sentence. Assault in the 4th degree is the only degree of assault that is not a felony.
For assault in the 4th degree, it does not matter if you intended to assault another person or put someone in a position where they were worried you may assault them. The unwanted contact with another person does not have to result in an injury.
What is 3rd Degree Assault?
A person is guilty of the crime of assault in the 3rd degree when he or she:
- assaults another with intent to prevent or resist the execution of any lawful process or mandate of any court officer or the lawful apprehension or detention of himself, herself, or another person, OR
- assaults a person employed as a transit operator or driver, the immediate supervisor of a transit operator or driver, a mechanic, or a security officer, by a public or private transit company or a contracted transit service provider while that person is performing his or her official duties at the time of the assault, OR
- assaults a school bus driver, the immediate supervisor of a school bus driver, a mechanic, or a security officer, employed by a school district or a private company under contract for transportation services with a school district while the person is performing his or her official duties at the time of the assault, OR
- with criminal negligence, causes bodily harm to another person by means of a weapon or other instrument or thing likely to produce bodily harm, OR
- assaults a firefighter or other employee of a fire department, county fire marshal’s office, county fire prevention bureau, or fire protection district who was performing his or her official duties at the time of the assault, OR
- with criminal negligence, causes bodily harm accompanied by substantial pain that extends for a period sufficient to cause considerable suffering, OR
- assaults a law enforcement officer or other employee of a law enforcement agency who was performing his or her official duties at the time of the assault, OR
- assaults a peace officer with a projectile stun gun, OR
- assaults a nurse, physician, or health care provider who was performing his or her nursing or health care duties at the time of the assault, OR
- assaults a judicial officer, court-related employee, county clerk, or county clerk’s employee, while that person is performing his or her official duties at the time of the assault or as a result of that person’s employment within the judicial system, OR
- assaults another in a courtroom or jury room or judge’s chamber or any waiting area or corridor immediately adjacent to a courtroom or jury room or judge’s chamber during a time when the courtroom or jury room or judge’s chamber is being used for judicial purposes during court proceedings, and there was signage prominently displayed at any public entrance to a courtroom, notifying the public about the possible penalties for the offense.
Assault in the 3rd degree is a class C felony meaning it carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. A conviction for assault in the 3rd degree that does not involved assaulting a peace officer with a stun gun can result in a prison sentence ranging from 1 to 60 months. A conviction for assault in the 3rd degree of a peace officer with a stun gun can result in a prison sentence ranging from 3 to 60 months.
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What is 2nd Degree Assault?
A person is guilty of the crime of assault in the 2nd degree when he or she:
- intentionally assaults another and thereby recklessly inflicts substantial bodily harm OR
- intentionally and unlawfully causes substantial bodily harm to an unborn child by intentionally and unlawfully inflicting any injury upon the mother of such child OR
- assaults another with a deadly weapon OR
- with intent to inflict bodily harm, administers to or causes to be taken by another poison or any other destructive or noxious substance OR
- assaults another with intent to commit a felony OR
- knowingly inflicts bodily harm which by design causes such pain or agony as to be the equivalent of that produced by torture OR
- assaults another by strangulation OR
- assaults another by suffocation.
Assault in the 2nd degree is a class B felony unless there is a finding of sexual motivation, which would escalate the crime to a class A felony. A finding of sexual motivation can occur when a person is charged with a crime that is not a sex crime, but a prosecutor finds that one of the purposes for the crime was for the defendant’s sexual gratification. A class B felony carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. A class A felony carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $50,000 fine. A conviction for assault in the 2nd degree can result in a prison sentence ranging from 3 to 84 months.
Substantial bodily harm can include bruising if it is enough to be considered temporary but substantial disfigurement. If a weapon is used in a crime charged as assault in the 2nd degree, the weapons must be capable of causing substantial bodily harm and not just one that appears deadly.
What is 1st Degree Assault?
A person is guilty of the crime of assault in the 1st degree when he or she:
- has the intent to inflict great bodily harm AND
- assaults another with a firearm OR
- with any deadly weapon OR
- by any force or means likely to produce great bodily harm or death OR
- administers, exposes, or transmits to or causes to be taken by another, poison, HIV, or any other destructive or noxious substance OR
- assaults another and inflicts great bodily harm.
Assault in the 1st degree is a class A felony. A class A felony carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $50,000 fine. A conviction for assault in the 1st degree can result in a prison sentence ranging from 93 to 318 months. There is a 5 year mandatory minimum if the defendant used force or means likely to result in death or intended to kill the victim.
If a person engages in unsafe sexual practices, knowing that he or she is HIV-positive, and knowing the dangers of those practices, they may be found guilty of assault in the 1st degree. Very violent acts such as repeatedly kicking a person in the head can result in the same conviction. Simply being armed with a firearm is not enough to prove a person intended to kill another person.
Domestic Violence Assault
Any of the crimes mentioned above can be enhanced as crimes of domestic violence if the assault is between family or household members. Family or household members mean:
- former spouses
- persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time
- adult persons related by blood or marriage
- adult persons who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past
- persons 16 years of age or older who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past and who have or have had a dating relationship
- persons who have a biological or legal parent-child relationship, including stepparents and stepchildren and grandparents and grandchildren
If a police officer responds to the call of a domestic violence complaint and has probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed, the officer must make an arrest. If charges are filed by a prosecutor, the court may put a no contact order in place while a criminal case is pending. This could mean no contact with your family members and an inability to return to your home. This order will be put in place even if the victim isn’t requesting it and doesn’t want it. A conviction for a domestic violence crime will result in the loss of the right to possess firearms.
If you have been charged with the crime of assault, it is important to contact an attorney to represent you. These crimes can have an impact on your employment and personal life. We have the experience and knowledge to help you. Call us at (206) 866-6739 or complete our quick form here: