Washington charges assaults under various levels, depending upon the nature of the harm or injury caused (more serious injuries mean more serious charges), or the means by which the assault was effected (use of a weapon will increase the severity of the charge), or the person who was assaulted (for example, an assault on a police officer is more serious than an assault on a regular citizen). The following are general summaries of the charges, and do not encompass all elements and means of the various types of assault:
Assault in the First Degree is a class A felony. To be guilty of an assault in the first degree, a person must have intent to inflict great bodily harm, and either (a) assaults another with a firearm or any deadly weapon or by any force or means likely to produce great bodily harm or death; or (b) administers or exposes a person to poison, a noxious substance, or the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); or (c) assaults another and actually inflicts great bodily harm.
Assault in the Second Degree is a class B felony (unless there is a finding of a sexual motivation, then it becomes a class A felony). This can be charged against a defendant under several circumstances, including the reckless infliction of substantial bodily harm (to a person, a pregnant woman, or an unborn quick child). This can also be charged against a defendant who assaults with a deadly weapon, who intends to cause harm and administers poison or a noxious substance, who assaults with intent to commit a felony, who assaults by strangulation, or who knowingly inflicts bodily harm equivalent to torture.
Assault in the Third Degree is a class C felony. It encompasses a range of different acts, including assault while attempting to resist lawful apprehension, and assault causing bodily harm when acting with criminal negligence (either by means of a weapon, or by causing substantial pain for a period long enough to cause “considerable” suffering). It also includes the assault of a number of different specific employees while performing their official duties, regardless of what harm or suffering is caused. This includes police officers, firefighters, nurses, physicians, transit operators, school bus drivers, etc. It also includes the assault of a peace officer with a projectile stun gun.
Assault in the Fourth Degree is a gross misdemeanor, and it covers any assault which does not amount to 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree assault or custodial assault. Courts have defined “assault” as: (1) intending to inflict bodily injury on another, accompanied by apparent present ability to do so, (2) intentionally creating in another person reasonable apprehension and fear of bodily injury (even if no contact or injury occurs), and (3) intentionally committing an unlawful touching, regardless of whether physical harm results. Some prosecutors will even charge an Assault in the Fourth Degree if the “assault” is spitting on another person.
Because no injury is required to charge some levels of assault, it is often very difficult to combat an allegation by another person. It is critical that you obtain the services of an attorney who is experienced in defending against allegations of criminal assault.