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Assault and Domestic Violence – What is assault and domestic violence?

Posted on December 9, 2019 in Domestic Violence
domestic violence

Assault and domestic violence are often confused for one another. And many Pierce County residents believe domestic violence to be just a more serious type of assault.
In fact, Domestic violence isn’t a criminal charge at all, instead it’s a certification that can be attached to an underlying criminal charge. One of the most common of the charges a DV certification is attached to is assault.
domestic violence

How does a DV Certification Work

When the phrase “domestic violence” is used in connection with a criminal charge, it has very little to do with the facts of what may have occurred.

The “domestic violence” tag, instead is used to indicate the relationship between the defendant and the alleged victim.

In Washington State, a DV certification can be added to a charge when the case involves the following types of people:

Family or household member

  • Spouse
  • People in a dating relationship
  • Blood relation
  • Roommate

Additional types of relationships that can add a DV certification to a charge include relations by marriage, persons with a child in common, stepparents, stepchildren, registered domestic partners, and former registered domestic partners.

The most common of these relationships seen in a DV case is that of spouse, or persons in a dating relationship.

There are a number of charges that often have a DV certification added. These include malicious mischief, harassment, and interfering with reporting. However, the most common charge that carries a DV certification is assault.

What is Assault?

Assaults are often thought of as all being the same, and of equal seriousness. This is not so.

In Washington State there are 4 main categories of assault. They range in seriousness from a gross misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of 364 days in Jail and a $5,000 fine, all the way to a Class A Felony punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison and/or a $50,000 fine.

Assault in the First Degree

A person is guilty of assault in the first degree if he or she, with intent to inflict great bodily harm:

  • (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, exposes, or transmits to or causes to be taken by another, poison, the human immunodeficiency virus as defined in chapter 70.24 RCW, or any other destructive or noxious substance; or
  • (c) Assaults another and inflicts great bodily harm. (See RCW 9A.36.011)

Assault 1, is a Class A Felony punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison and/or a $50,000 fine.

Assault in the Second Degree

A person is guilty of assault in the second degree if he or she, under circumstances not amounting to assault in the first degree:

  • (a) Intentionally assaults another and thereby recklessly inflicts substantial bodily harm; or
  • (b) Intentionally and unlawfully causes substantial bodily harm to an unborn quick child by intentionally and unlawfully inflicting any injury upon the mother of such child; or
  • (c) Assaults another with a deadly weapon; or
  • (d) With intent to inflict bodily harm, administers to or causes to be taken by another, poison or any other destructive or noxious substance; or
  • (e) With intent to commit a felony, assaults another; or
  • (f) Knowingly inflicts bodily harm which by design causes such pain or agony as to be the equivalent of that produced by torture; or
  • (g) Assaults another by strangulation or suffocation.

Assault by strangulation or suffocation is one of the most common fact patterns leading to this charge. Though, most people don’t think of grabbing someone by the neck as having the same degree of seriousness as wielding a knife or a gun in a conflict, Washington State connects this high level of seriousness with these types of cases due to the high risk of death.

Assault 2 is generally charged as a Class B felony with a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine.

(See 9A.36.021)

Assault in the Third Degree

A person is guilty of assault in the third degree if he or she, under circumstances not amounting to assault in the first or second degree:

  • (a) With intent to prevent or resist the execution of any lawful process or mandate of any court officer or the lawful apprehension or detention of himself, herself, or another person, assaults another; or
  • (b) Assaults a person employed as a transit operator or driver, the immediate supervisor of a transit operator or driver, a mechanic, or a security officer, by a public or private transit company or a contracted transit service provider, while that person is performing his or her official duties at the time of the assault; or
  • (c) Assaults a school bus driver, the immediate supervisor of a driver, a mechanic, or a security officer, employed by a school district transportation service or a private company under contract for transportation services with a school district, while the person is performing his or her official duties at the time of the assault; or
  • (d) With criminal negligence, causes bodily harm to another person by means of a weapon or other instrument or thing likely to produce bodily harm; or
  • (e) Assaults a firefighter or other employee of a fire department, county fire marshal’s office, county fire prevention bureau, or fire protection district who was performing his or her official duties at the time of the assault; or
  • (f) With criminal negligence, causes bodily harm accompanied by substantial pain that extends for a period sufficient to cause considerable suffering; or
  • (g) Assaults a law enforcement officer or other employee of a law enforcement agency who was performing his or her official duties at the time of the assault; or
  • (h) Assaults a peace officer with a projectile stun gun; or
  • (i) Assaults a nurse, physician, or health care provider who was performing his or her nursing or health care duties at the time of the assault; or
  • (j) Assaults a judicial officer, court-related employee, county clerk, or county clerk’s employee, while that person is performing his or her official duties at the time of the assault or as a result of that person’s employment within the judicial system; or
  • (k) Assaults a person located in a courtroom, jury room, judge’s chamber, or any waiting area or corridor immediately adjacent to a courtroom, jury room, or judge’s chamber. (See RCW 9A.36,031)

Assault 3 is a Class C Felony with a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000.

Assault in the Fourth Degree

Frequently referred to as “simple assault,” assault in the fourth degree is the most common of the assault charges.

A person is guilty of assault in the fourth degree if he or she puts another in immediate fear of a harmful or offensive touching. This can include seemingly slight actions such as flipping the hat off of a person’s head, spitting at a person, or faking a punch. However assault 4 also includes action such as punching, kicking, pushing and scratching. (See RCW 9A.36.041)

Assault 4 is a gross misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

What to Do About an Assault Charge

While all allegations of assault may not be the same, they do all have one thing in common: you shouldn’t face them alone. If it’s an assault in the fourth degree, or an assault in the second degree with a DV certification, call The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield at (253) 999-9842 for a free consultation with a lawyer that knows Assault and Domestic Violence related cases.