If you have been accused of hurting another person or threatening them with a weapon, you may be charged with felony assault, also known as aggravated assault. You should not try to handle this situation yourself. You will be at a distinct disadvantage against the police and prosecutors who handle these types of cases every day. You have a better chance of obtaining a fair outcome by working with a Tacoma domestic violence attorney experienced in assault cases.
Contact The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC at (253) 733-2093 to schedule a free, confidential consultation.
Felony Assault in Washington
There is no specific offense called “aggravated assault” in the state of Washington. However, this is understood to be a form of assault that is more aggressive or harmful to the victim. These escalated assaults may include the presence of certain aggravating factors, like the use of a gun or other deadly weapon. It may also relate to an assault that results in bodily harm and not merely an offensive or annoying touching. These cases are sometimes referred to as felony assault.
Under Washington law, there are four degrees of assault. The fourth and lowest degree is a gross misdemeanor. A fourth-degree assault does not involve any weapons or result in an injury. However, assault in the third, second, or first degree may be considered aggravated assault in colloquial terms. These levels of assault may involve the use of weapons and various levels of injuries.
Assault in the Third Degree (RCW 9A.36.031)
You may be charged with assault in the third degree if certain individuals are involved. These professionals are protected by the law when trying to perform their duties:
- A court or judicial officer
- A county clerk or clerk employee
- A transit operator, mechanic, or security officer
- A school bus driver, supervisor, mechanic, or security guard
- A firefighter, fire marshal, or fire marshal employee
- A police officer
- A nurse, doctor, or another healthcare provider
Prosecutors also may charge you with this offense if, with criminal negligence, you cause another person:
- Bodily harm by the use of a weapon or another instrument or object likely to cause injury, or
- Bodily harm that is accompanied by substantial pain for a considerable time.
Assault in the third degree is a class C felony. If convicted, you can be sentenced to up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000. You also may be sentenced to probation and community service.
Assault in the Second Degree (RCW 9A.36.021)
Assault in the second degree entails a situation more serious than third-degree assault, yet it does not quite amount to assault in the first degree, which is the most serious form of felony assault. You may be charged with assault in the second degree if you:
- Intentionally assault someone and recklessly inflict substantial bodily harm on them;
- Intentionally cause substantial bodily harm to a pregnant woman or an unborn child;
- Assault someone with a deadly weapon;
- With the intent to inflict bodily harm, poison someone or cause them to be poisoned;
- Assault another with the intent to commit a felony;
- Knowingly inflict harm designed to cause pain (torture); or
- Strangle or suffocate another person.
This is a class B Felony, punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison.
However, an assault in the second degree that the court finds is based on a sexual motivation is a class A felony.
Assault in the First Degree (RCW 9A.36.011)
Assault in the first degree is the most serious assault offense in Washington. You may be charged with this offense if, with the intent to inflict great bodily harm, you:
- Assault another person with a firearm, any deadly weapon, or any force or means likely to cause great bodily harm or death;
- Administer, expose, transmit, or cause another person to take a poison, a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), or any other destructive or noxious substance; or
- Assault another and inflict great bodily harm.
As a class A felony, this offense is punishable by up to life in prison and fines reaching $50,000.
Secondary Consequences of an Aggravated Assault Conviction
If you are convicted of felony assault, you can anticipate your criminal punishment to include incarceration and probation. It also may entail home confinement, community service, and restitution to the victim. Beyond these penalties, you may experience a wide range of collateral consequences associated with having a permanent criminal record. Your record will be available to the public, and it will show on background checks. You may also have to acknowledge the conviction on applications for college or graduate schools, vocational programs, jobs, apartments, and loans. When the person running your background check sees a conviction for a violent crime like felony assault, where aggravating factors exist, you are more likely to lose out on the opportunity.
Being convicted of felony assault could impact other aspects of your life as well, including your child custody and visitation rights. An assault may enable your child’s other parent to return to court and ask for you to have less time with your children or only supervised visitation.
A criminal conviction may impact your immigration status. You could have a visa renewal application denied, a permanent residency application denied, or become ineligible for naturalization. If you are undocumented when convicted, you may face deportation.
Defending Against Washington Aggravated Assault Charges
If you are accused of assault in the third, second, or first degree, you need to speak with a Tacoma felony assault attorney. These are serious felony offenses, and the best thing for you to do is have a Tacoma felony assault lawyer review your case and determine the strongest defense strategy.
To begin with, your lawyer may seek to limit the evidence used against you. For evidence to be admitted into court, it must be relevant and authenticated, which means the party proves the piece of evidence is what they claim to be. The evidence must also not be hearsay, which is an out-of-court statement admitted to prove the truth of the matter it asserts. Hearsay, whether it’s something another person said or wrote, is generally inadmissible unless it fits into certain exceptions. Many assault cases include evidence that your felony assault attorney may seek to exclude based on hearsay.
Potential assault defenses include:
- Self-defense or in defense of others
- Lack of intent
- Mistake of identity
- False accusations
- Insufficient evidence
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Contact a Tacoma Felony Assault Lawyer Today
If you have been accused of committing a violent crime, like felony assault, the best thing for you to do is call a Tacoma felony assault attorney. Attorney Morgan Fletcher Benfield will investigate the situation to gather evidence on your behalf, and after a careful analysis of your case, he will advise you of all your options. Throughout your case, attorney Benfield will protect your rights and advocate for your interests. He will fight to obtain the best possible outcome in your case, whether that entails the charges being dropped, negotiating a plea, or obtaining minimal penalties upon conviction.
To learn more about how he can help, call Benfield at (253) 733-2093 or use the online form to schedule a free consultation.