Assaults and Fights: A Criminal Defense Attorney’s Prospective
In our capacity as criminal defense lawyers | attorneys, we have handled a lot of a fights that are charged as gross misdemeanors or felony assaults. These charges can range from relatively minor to extremely serious. Whether your loved one’s behavior will be charged as an assault, and how serious those charged will be, depends on a number of factors, including:
- Who started the fight? The law and defenses surrounding assaults are complicated, but a key first issue is who started the fight. Whoever starts a fight is considered the aggressor. To no longer be considered an aggressor, one must in good faith, endeavor to withdraw from and abandon the conflict. The analysis on this issue can be extremely fact specific and in our office, the criminal defense lawyers | attorneys always complete all crucial interviews and do not rely on investigators who are not familiar with the rules of evidence or how cases play out in trial.
- Was someone acting in self-defense? A lot of case law has been produced on the nuances of self-defense . Self-defense is considered a complete affirmative defense to an assault case. The degree of force allowed by self-defense varies, depending on the circumstances. For example, how many people were attacking someone, what weapons were involved, who was the aggressor, who was drinking, what was the reputation of the attacker(s), were they defending someone else, what formal training did parties have are just a few of the relevant factors. A consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer | attorney is necessary to weigh the specific situation.
- How much harm was caused and was it intended? The seriousness of assault charges depends on a number of factors including how much harm was caused in the fight and whether that was the intent. In general, if the damage is minimal or nonexistent and this was the intention, one can expect a misdemeanor assault. However, as the level of damage to an alleged victim goes up and/or the intent to do serious damage is either desired or the aggressor intentionally, recklessly or negligently disregards the possibility of this result, so does the seriousness of the crime.
- Was a deadly weapon used? Even if someone does not intend to cause a lot of harm, if a deadly weapon was involved, the criminal charges get more serious because of automatic enhancements.
- Who was assaulted? Assaults on police officers, hospital staff, metro bus drivers or an employee of the fire department are treated differently than assaults on another individual. These categories and others automatically result in more serious felony charges no matter what the damage or intent.
There are other factors to be considered but this gives a rough idea of how Washington’s criminal code categorizes assaults. For more details, review the code sections bearing on assault in RCW 9A.36. Keep in mind that the Revised Code of Washington does not define assault so the courts apply the common law definition created in case law.
In Washington, the common law definition of assault encompasses: “(1) an attempt, with unlawful force, to inflict bodily injury upon another; (2) an unlawful touching with criminal intent; or (3) putting another in apprehension of harm whether or not the actor intends to inflict or is incapable of inflicting that harm.” State v. Walden, 67 Wn.App. 891, 893-94, 941 P.2d 81 (1992). “‘[A] touching may be unlawful because it was neither legally consented to nor otherwise privileged, and was either harmful or offensive.’” State v. Thomas, 98 Wn.App. 422, 424, 989 P.2d 612 (1999) (quoting State v. Garcia, 20 Wn.App. 401, 403, 579 P.2d 1034 (1978) (alteration in original)). This is a well-settled common law definition.
Our firm has a unique blend of courtroom experience, knowledge and temperament. Our criminal defense lawyers | attorneys work as a team and are highly experienced in dealing with prosecutor and court dynamics surrounding minor and serious assault charges. Our lawyers know that criminal cases are rarely as simple as the police reports claim and our clients retain us early on in the process to make sure their rights are protected. Consultations are free but a poor choice in counsel is not. The first step in evaluating counsel is an appointment. Call 206-708-7852 to set up an appointment for a free initial consultation.