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Degrees of Assault and How an Experienced Lawyer Can Help

July 28, 2015
Category: Assault
Tags: assault defense degrees


In Maryland, assault can be considered a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the severity of physical harm, the weapons used and the persons involved. The term “assault” encompasses a wide variety of actions, from a careless prank to domestic violence and gunpoint threats. As Maryland criminal defense lawyers, we frequently represent clients in assault cases, and here is some information to help you understand what assault is and what assault charges mean.

What is Considered Assault?

When you think of assault, you probably picture a bar fight or someone being beaten and robbed in a dark alley. And you are right—both of these examples describe an assault. However, there is more to it than meets the eye.

Maryland Law defines assault as “the offensive touching or attempted touching of another person without consent, or placing that person in immediate fear of an intentional touching against their consent.” As you can see from this definition, you don’t have to be in a physical altercation with a person in order to assault them. Simply attempting to harm someone or making them fear the imminent harm may also be considered assault.

Degrees of Assault

Depending on the severity of the assault, it can be assigned a different degree. There are two degrees of assault recognized in Maryland, each resulting in different charges and punishment. Either way, you would need an experienced Maryland assault lawyer to help you reduce or dismiss the charges.

First Degree Assault

First degree assault happens when one person intentionally causes or attempts to cause “serious physical injury” to another person. The injury is considered serious when it’s life threatening or results in permanent loss or impairment of bodily functions. For example, a paralysis or a broken leg can be considered a serious injury. An assault that involves a firearm is typically also categorized as first degree, even if it didn’t result in any injuries.

First degree assault is the most severe type of assault and is classified as a felony and punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

Second Degree Assault

Second degree assault charge can encompass a few different (but related) actions:

  • Any unwanted, offensive or potentially harmful touching of another person.
  • Any sort of physical impairment that doesn’t fall under the first degree assault.
  • Placing someone in imminent fear of bodily harm, which typically means threatening a person.

Generally, a second degree assault is classified as a misdemeanor and the punishment can range from a $2,500 fine to 10 years in prison. However, if the assault is committed or attempted against a law enforcement officer, it’s often considered a felony.

Reckless Endangerment

In Maryland, reckless endangerment is also grouped under the assault category. Reckless endangerment is the act of placing someone at a risk of death or serious physical injury, whether it’s intentional or not. If you didn’t want to harm anyone, but also didn’t do anything to prevent it, this can count as reckless endangerment. For example, if you are speeding or otherwise driving aggressively with children in your car, you are recklessly endangering them. Discharging a gun in the air may also count as reckless endangerment, because the stray bullet may seriously injure someone.

Reckless endangerment is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

Defenses Against Assault Charges

When it comes to assault, especially active physical altercations, there are many instances when police arrest the wrong person. Law enforcement officers may be inclined to arrest the person who appears less injured, which is not always the assailant. In some cases, a person may make up or exaggerate assault charges with the purpose of retaliation against you. No matter the situation, DRA e-Law will help build your defense, reduce punishment or dismiss the case entirely if you were wrongly accused.

Self defense is a common defense strategy in assault cases and is most successful in cases where the defendant was not the one who initiated the assault. If the assault happened in a public place, we can help you track down additional witnesses who can testify in your defense. In other cases, we may be able to argue for a reduction of charges based on your lack of criminal record or other favorable circumstances.

Contact us today if you are being charged with assault and need an experienced Maryland assault lawyer to defend you.

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