Context plays a very important role in California assault cases.
State law broadly defines the crime of assault as intentionally or recklessly attempting to inflict force on another person. Most cases of “vanilla assault” are straightforward misdemeanors that don’t carry significant penalties.
However, depending on how the assault is committed and who it is committed against, you might face significantly steeper penalties.
One such case is the crime of assault with a deadly weapon (ADW), which can carry felony prison sentences up to 12 years depending on the facts of the case. Assault with a deadly weapon, defined in California Penal Code 245(a)(1) PC, refers to cases where someone attacks or attempts to attack another person with either a deadly weapon or enough force to cause great bodily injury.
If you or someone you know is facing assault with a deadly weapon charges, it’s important to speak with a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can review your case with you and advise you on the best route forward.
- What is ‘Assault With a Deadly Weapon?’
- Penalties for Assault With a Deadly Weapon in California
- Defenses against Assault With a Deadly Weapon charges
What is ‘Assault With a Deadly Weapon?’
In order to convict someone of assault with a deadly weapon, a prosecutor will have to prove that five facts in the case were true:
- The defendant performed an act that, by its nature, would result in the application of force to someone else.
- This act was performed with either a lethal weapon, or enough force to produce “great bodily injury.”
- The defendant performed this act willfully.
- When the defendant acted, they were aware that this would lead a reasonable person to believe the act would lead to the application of force to the other person.
- When the defendant acted, they had the ability to apply force with a lethal weapon or enough force to produce great bodily harm.
Let’s spend some time unpacking this.
What is ‘application of force?’
Application of force is “any act that reasonably causes a person to fear that they are about to be injured.”
This can include the slightest physical contact, if it was done in a rude or offensive manner. This also includes causing someone else to come in contact with an object, for example, throwing an object at someone.
What is a deadly weapon?
In order to be considered a deadly weapon under California law, the object in question must meet one of the following requirements:
- The object is designed to inflict death or great bodily injury.
- The object is used in a manner that is likely to produce death or great bodily injury.
This means that guns and knives qualify as deadly weapons in all cases. Then, depending on how they’re used, the following objects can also sometimes qualify as deadly weapons.
- BB guns
- Dogs, if trained to attack humans on command
What is ‘great bodily injury?’
Great bodily injury is defined as “a significant or substantial physical injury.” This can include injuries such as:
- Permanent disfigurement
- Loss of a limb or organ
- Internal injuries
- Severe burns
Penalties for Assault With a Deadly Weapon in California
In California, assault with a deadly weapon is a “wobbler,” which means that it can be either a felony or misdemeanor. The severity of the charge will depend on a number of factors, including the type of weapon used, the nature of the assault, and the victim’s injuries.
If the weapon used wasn’t a firearm, the case can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the facts of the case.
The typical penalties for misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon in California can include up to one year in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. However, if the assault causes great bodily injury to the victim, the penalties can be much more severe.
The typical penalties for felony assault with a deadly weapon in California can include up to four years in state prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
However, if the assault involved a firearm or caused great bodily injury to the victim, the penalties can be much more severe.
Penalties for ADW with a firearm
If the assault involved an ordinary firearm like a pistol or revolver, ADW with a firearm is treated as a wobbler like most ADW cases. The one major difference is that these cases carry a mandatory minimum jail term of six months.
If the assault involved any of the following firearms:
- Semiautomatic firearms
- Machine guns
- Assault weapons
- .50 caliber rifles
Then, penalties include prison terms of up to 12 years.
Penalties for ADW on a police officer
As we mentioned above, context is critically important in assault cases. Some groups of people, including police officers, receive special protections under the law, and assaulting them can lead to additional punishments compared to “vanilla assault.”
If the victim was a police officer, firefighter or EMT, the case is punishable by five years in state prison. This rises to 12 years if the deadly weapon was a firearm.
Defenses against Assault With a Deadly Weapon charges
There are a few common defenses that can be used against assault with a deadly weapon charges. Some of these include:
- The defendant was acting in self-defense.
- The defendant was acting in defense of someone else.
- The defendant did not act willfully or with the intent to assault the other person.
- The defendant had no ability to actually inflict deadly force on the other person.
When you start working with a criminal defense attorney, they will likely ask you a number of questions about the incident in order to get a better understanding of what happened. They may also want to review any evidence that is available, including police reports, witness statements, and photos or video footage. They’ll use this to craft your defense and fight your case.
When you are charged with assault with a deadly weapon, it can be a very stressful experience. You may feel like you are alone and don’t know where to turn.
But luckily, there is help available. You can work with a criminal defense attorney who will help you navigate the criminal justice system and who will fight for your rights. Call Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Robert M. Helfend today for a free case review – 800-834-6434.