Assault is a serious crime that can have serious consequences for both the victim and the perpetrator. In New York, assault can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the severity of the offense. Understanding the difference between these two categories is important for anyone who may be facing assault charges or who wants to understand the criminal justice system. In this article, Eastcoastlaws.com will explore the legal definitions of assault in New York, the factors that determine whether it is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, and the potential penalties for each. We will also discuss some of the common defenses that can be used in assault cases and the role of a criminal defense attorney in helping those accused of assault navigate the legal process.
What Is Assault?
The simplest straightforward definition of assault is the intentional or negligent infliction of physical harm to another person. While actual contact and bodily harm are required in New York to qualify as an assault offense, this is not the case in many other jurisdictions, where the crime of assault is defined as willfully putting another person in reasonable fear of bodily harm.
Is Assault A Felony Or Misdemeanor In New York
In New York, assault can be classified as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the severity of the crime committed. The state of New York divides assault into three categories: first-degree assault, second-degree assault, and third-degree assault.
First-degree assault is the most serious form of assault, and it involves causing serious physical injury to another person with a deadly weapon or with the intent to cause such injury. It is considered a Class B violent felony, which is a type of felony offense that carries a sentence of up to 25 years in prison.
Second-degree assault is the second most serious form of assault, and it involves causing physical injury to another person with a deadly weapon or with the intent to cause such injury. It can also involve reckless behavior that causes serious physical injury to another person. Second-degree assault is considered a Class D violent felony, which carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison.
Third-degree assault is the least serious form of assault, and it involves causing physical injury to another person. It is considered a Class A misdemeanor, which is a type of misdemeanor offense that carries a sentence of up to one year in jail.
It’s important to note that assault can also be classified as a hate crime in New York, which would increase the severity of the punishment. A hate crime is defined as an offense in which a person intentionally selects a victim because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristics.
What is Felony Assault?
Second-degree assault, which is a Class D felony, and first-degree assault, which is a Class B felony, are the two degrees of assault offenses. The victim in both degrees must have a “physical injury” of varying severity. More specifically, second-degree assault may be prosecuted in some cases even if the victim only suffers a “physical injury,” unlike first-degree assault, which calls for a more severe “serious physical injury.”
Beyond the requirement of hurt, both degrees of criminal assault has other components. For instance, injuries caused by negligence or purposeful activity are included in both tiers. Both levels of criminal assault also cover injuries caused by “dangerous instruments” or “deadly weapons,” respectively. Before talking about the specifics of each felony assault offense, let’s first identify a few of the common features.
Physical injury versus serious physical injury
When a victim endures actual pain or harm, they have experienced “physical injury,” not mental anguish. This is because “physical harm,” as it is defined by New York law, is “impairment of bodily condition or considerable discomfort.” On the other hand, a “serious bodily injury” raises the possibility of death or actually causes it, as well as long-term disfigurement, ill health, or the loss or damage of an organ. (N.Y. Penal Law § 10.00).
Someone willfully causes an injury when they want one to occur. Additionally, a defendant might be prosecuted with assault under New York law if they injured anyone else, even if they weren’t the intended victim, as long as they intended to hurt them. To put it another way, it was still an attack even though the defendant hit someone else instead of the intended victim. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether the offender really injured the intended victim; what counts is whether they had malicious intent to do so.
Someone is acting recklessly when they willfully ignore a considerable and unreasonable risk that their actions could cause harm. In other words, someone is reckless when they behave carelessly even when they are aware that they will undoubtedly cause harm to someone. Be mindful that being knowingly drunk or high does not afford a defense against careless assault. (N.Y. Penal Law § 15.05).
Deadly weapon or dangerous instrument
Dangerous weapons include loaded firearms, different knives (including switchblades, gravity knives, and daggers), billy, blackjack, and plastic or metal knuckles. On the other hand, a “dangerous instrument” is any object (including a vehicle) that, while not normally a weapon, is yet easily capable of causing death or serious injury. For instance, it may be deemed doing so to assault someone while using a deadly object.
Felony Assualt Penalties in New York
If found guilty of felony assault, the defendant may be sentenced to jail time, probation, or both. In New York, a judge will impose a prison term with a minimum and maximum term as part of an “indeterminate” sentence for felony assault (for instance, three to nine years). The minimum and maximum terms may be established by the judge within a range. The maximum sentence for a felony conviction, for instance, must be at least three years and, depending on the severity of the crime, can be as long as 25 years. A minimum term of one year is required and it cannot be less than one-third of the maximum duration.
The minimum sentence must be completed before a criminal is eligible for parole. The defendant will end up serving the maximum sentence if he is not granted parole. A felony conviction carries a maximum $5,000 fine. For a criminal conviction, probation lasts for five years. (N.Y. Penal Law § 70.00).
When a defendant is convicted of the Class D felony of second-degree assault, a judge can impose a maximum prison term of at least 3 years to no more than 7 years. If the defendant is not a second felony offender or persistent violent felon, a judge has the power to impose an alternative term of a “definite” period of incarceration of one year or less (meaning that the judge can order a term of one year or any other number of days between one day up to a year).
(N.Y. Penal Law § § 120.05, 70.00, 70.02).
The Class B felony of first-degree assault carries a maximum prison term of at least three years and could actually be up to 25 years.
(N.Y. Penal Law § § 120.10, 70.00, 70.02).
What is Misdemeanor Assault Under New York Law?
In New York, misdemeanor assault is defined as intentionally causing physical injury to another person. This offense falls under Section 120.00 of the New York Penal Law and is considered a Class A misdemeanor, which is the most serious type of misdemeanor offense.
To be charged with misdemeanor assault in New York, the prosecution must prove that the accused acted with intent and caused physical harm or injury to the victim. This can include any type of physical injury, from minor cuts and bruises to more serious injuries like broken bones. It is important to note that the victim does not need to suffer serious injury for the accused to be charged with this offense.
Some examples of actions that can result in a misdemeanor assault charge in New York include hitting, punching, slapping, or pushing another person. Additionally, the use of a weapon during an assault can result in more serious charges, such as felony assault.
It is also worth noting that in some cases, individuals may be charged with misdemeanor assault for recklessly causing injury to another person. This means that while the accused did not intend to harm the victim, their actions were still reckless enough to cause physical injury.
Victim experiences “physical injury” when they experience bodily pain or injury, not mental agony. The term “physical harm” is defined by New York law as “impairment of bodily condition or significant pain.” (N.Y. Penal Law § 10.00).
When someone wants an injury to happen, they purposefully cause it to happen. In addition, under New York law, a defendant might be charged with assault for hurting anyone else, even someone who wasn’t the intended victim, as long as the criminal had the intention to cause harm. In other words, it is still an assault even if the defendant “missed” the intended victim and hit and hurt someone else instead. In the end, it doesn’t matter if the criminal actually hurt the intended victim; what matters is whether the defendant intended to cause an injury.
When a person intentionally disregards a significant and unjustifiable danger that their activities may result in harm, they are acting recklessly. To put it another way, a person is reckless when they act recklessly despite knowing that they will probably hurt someone. Be aware that being willingly intoxicated or high does not offer protection from reckless assault. (N.Y. Penal Law § 15.05).
A person is criminally negligent when he fails to realize that his actions will almost certainly cause an injury. (N.Y. Penal Law § 15.05).
Deadly weapon or dangerous instrument
A loaded gun, various knives (such as switchblades, gravity knives, and daggers), a billy, a blackjack, and plastic or metal knuckles are all examples of “deadly weapons.” A “hazardous instrument” on the other hand is any object (including a vehicle) that, while not typically a weapon, can yet be utilized in a way that is easily capable of resulting in death or serious injury. A dangerous weapon could be used in an assault, such as beating someone with a bar stool. (N.Y. Penal Law § 10.00).
Penalties For Misdemeanor Assault In New York
The penalties for misdemeanor assault in New York can vary depending on the severity of the offense and the defendant’s criminal history. As a Class A misdemeanor, the maximum sentence for misdemeanor assault in New York is one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
In addition to imprisonment and fines, a person convicted of misdemeanor assault may also be required to complete community service, attend anger management classes, and/or be subject to a restraining order or order of protection. The specific penalties imposed will depend on the circumstances of the case and the judge’s discretion.
It is also worth noting that a conviction for misdemeanor assault can have long-lasting consequences beyond the immediate penalties. A criminal record can affect a person’s ability to find employment, obtain housing, and may also impact their immigration status if they are not a U.S. citizen.
Given the serious nature of the penalties for misdemeanor assault in New York, it is crucial to seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are facing these charges. A knowledgeable attorney can help you understand your legal options, navigate the criminal justice system, and work to protect your rights and interests.
Defense For Misdemeanor Assault In New York
If you are facing misdemeanor assault charges in New York, there are several defenses that may be available to you. Some of the most common defenses used in misdemeanor assault cases include:
- Self-defense: If you acted in self-defense, you may be able to argue that you were protecting yourself from harm and did not intend to cause injury to the other person.
- Defense of others: If you were defending another person from harm, you may be able to argue that your actions were justified.
- Lack of intent: If you did not intend to cause injury to the other person, you may be able to argue that the injury was accidental or that you did not have the requisite intent to commit the offense.
- Consent: If the alleged victim consented to physical contact, you may be able to argue that there was no assault.
- False accusation: If you believe that you have been falsely accused of misdemeanor assault, you can present evidence to refute the allegations against you.
It is important to note that each case is unique, and the defense strategy that is appropriate for your case will depend on the specific circumstances of the offense. Consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney is critical to building a strong defense and protecting your rights.