This article is written by Upasana Sarkar, a student at Jogesh Chandra Chaudhuri Law College. This article aims to provide an understanding of second degree assault under US Law. It provides a detailed analysis of the various crimes that fall under assault in the second degree, their penalties, and the defenses available against them.
It has been published by Rachit Garg.
Assault is commonly defined as a deliberate act that is intended to cause apprehension or fear in the mind of the victim. It is an act that causes fear in the mind of another person without any kind of physical contact. This states that the person committing the act need not make any physical contact with the sufferer. Under US Law, degrees of assault are mainly of three degrees, i.e., first degree assault, second degree assault, and third degree assault. But it may vary from state to state. In some states, there are also fourth degree assaults. Under what degree an act of assault will fall totally depends upon the circumstances of a case. An act of assault can be done by a person without laying a hand on the other person. It is a voluntary act committed by the offender.
Definition of second degree assault
Second degree assault is an intentional act of a person where he knowingly causes some serious kind of bodily harm or injury with a deadly weapon or insensibly causes severe physical injury to another. A person is said to be guilty of assault in second degree if he or she does not fall under assault in first degree and he or she-
- With the intention to assault another person, deliberately assaults him and thereby carelessly causes substantial bodily harm or injury; or
- With an intention to cause bodily injury to an unborn child, deliberately and illegally assaults the unborn child by inflicting serious bodily harm on the mother of an unborn child; or
- With the intent to assault another person, uses a deadly weapon to assault him; or
- With an intention to inflict bodily harm or injury on another person, intentionally exposes him to poison or any other destructive or noxious substance; or
- With an intention to commit a felony, assaults another person; or
- With an intention to cause bodily pain or agony to torture the other person, knowingly inflicts bodily harm upon him; or
- With the intention to assault another person, strangles or suffocates him.
Illustrations of second degree assault:
- ‘A’ driving on the highway and he takes his eyes off the road for a few seconds to check his mobile, which leads to an accident that paralyzes ‘B’. ‘A’ could be charged with second degree assault.
- ‘X’ intentionally pushed ‘Y’ down the stairs, causing him to suffer a serious head injury. ‘X’ could be charged with second degree assault.
- ‘P’ shot ‘Q’, his boss, for getting fired from his job. P can be charged with second degree assault.
Meaning of substantial bodily harm
A bodily harm or injury means any kind of physical pain, illness, or any physical or mental impairment. Substantial bodily harm means a condition that involves a substantial risk of death. It involves substantial disfigurement or loss of function of a body part or results in fractured or broken bones. When a person threatens another person with a dangerous weapon, he can be charged with second degree assault.
Meaning of deadly weapons
Deadly weapons include those that can cause serious harm to another person. Some objects that can be regarded as deadly weapons are as follows:
- Any loaded or unloaded firearm;
- Any sharp objects like a knife or blade;
- Any flammable or combustible liquid;
- Any other object that can be used to cause serious bodily injury or death.
Penalties for second degree assault
Second degree assault is a crime of violence that is committed voluntarily by a person against another person.
Penalties for second degree assault in Washington
Second degree assault in Washington is considered a class B felony, which is punishable with imprisonment for a term that can extend up to ten years, or a fine that can extend up to $20,000, or both under the Revised Code of Washington.
Penalties for second degree assault in New York
Second degree assault in New York is considered a class D felony, which is punishable with imprisonment for a minimum term of two years that may extend up to seven years under New York Penal Law. The various factors that determine the term of imprisonment are as follows:
- Previous convictions: This means any prior felony convictions of the offender within the last ten years.
- Non-violent felony conviction: This means any non-violent felony conviction of the offender within the last ten years.
- Violent felony conviction: This means any violent felony conviction of the offender within the last ten years.
- Persistent felony offender: This means at least two previous felony convictions for the offender.
Penalties for second degree assault in Colorado
Second degree assault in Colorado is considered a class 4 felony, which is punishable with imprisonment with a minimum term of 5 years that may extend up to 16 years under the Colorado Revised Statutes.
Penalties for second degree assault in Maryland
Second degree assault in Maryland is considered a misdemeanor, which is punishable with imprisonment for a term that may extend up to 10 years, or a fine up to $2,500, or both. If the accused assaulted a law enforcement officer, parole officer, or probation officer who was doing his official duties, he could be sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment along with a fine that may extend up to $5,000 under the Maryland Criminal Code.
Defenses against second degree assault
When a person is accused of second degree assault, he can take the following defenses, which are as follows:
- Self-defense: Any person can use reasonable force to defend himself against another person. If the accused can prove it, he would not be charged with second degree assault.
- Intoxication: Voluntary intoxication would not constitute a valid defense against assault. However, involuntary intoxication can be used as a valid defense when charged with second degree assault.
- Insanity: If the accused is an insane person or was suffering from temporary insanity at the time of the alleged assault, he can use it as a valid defense when charged with second degree assault.
- Entrapment: If the accused is induced by law enforcement to commit an assault that he would not have committed otherwise, he may use entrapment as a valid defense when charged with second degree assault.
- Consent: If a person has himself consented in any kind of games, knowing that it can cause bodily injury, then the other person cannot be charged with second degree assault.
- Alibi: If the accused can prove that the victim made an error in identifying the offender, he can use mistaken identity as a valid defense when charged with second degree assault.
- Defense of Property: Any person can use reasonable force to defend his property against another person. If the accused can prove it, he would not be charged with second degree assault.
- Heat of passion: If the victim has himself provoked the accused and that provocation made him act in the heat of passion that caused injury to the victim, then the accused can use that as a valid defense when charged with second degree assault.
- Lack of intent: If the act caused by the accused was accidental and not intentional, then the accused also cannot be charged with second degree assault.
- In the case of People v. Warren (2012), the defendant had pushed the victim down the staircase onto a concrete landing. So the defendant was charged with second degree assault. Under New York Penal Law, it was observed that though concrete is not usually considered a deadly or dangerous weapon when it is used in the manner in which the defendant used it, it becomes a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.
- In the case of People v. Taylor (2014), the plaintiff picked up the defendant’s girlfriend and brought her to a concert. The defendant came to meet her there. Later, an argument took place between the plaintiff and the defendant in the parking lot. During the argument, the defendant’s knife caused a deep cut across the plaintiff’s abdomen. Under the New York Penal Law, the defendant was convicted of second degree assault on the basis of a 16-inches deep cut of the plaintiff’s abdomen with the defendant’s pocket knife.
- In the case of People v. McElroy (2014), a dispute took place between the plaintiff and the defendant. The defendant, the passenger, was intoxicated, so the plaintiff drove him to his address. But initially, he had taken him to the wrong address. A dispute over the fare arose between them. The defendant then left the vehicle after paying the fare with his credit card without signing the credit card receipt. The plaintiff, therefore, blocked his way when the defendant punched him. The victim suffered serious head and brain injuries as he fell backward, hitting his head on the sidewalk. Under the New York Penal Law, the defendant was charged with second degree assault.
- In the case of People v. Plemmons (2021), the defendant spat on two sheriff deputies who were trying to determine whether she was suicidal or not. The deputies arrested her for spitting on them and charged her with second degree assault. Though the act of spitting did not cause physical harm, the act was considered serious at the time as COVID-19 could easily be transmitted through the droplets of saliva, which could lead to greater bodily harm.
- In the case of People v. Emily (2014), the victim was taken to the hospital with multiple bruises and a brain injury. She claimed that her injuries were caused by the defendant, who assaulted her for a few days in his residence. Her husband, the defendant, beat his wife and forcefully made her consume a large quantity of alcohol, which resulted in brain injury and needed emergency surgery. The defendant was convicted of second degree assault under the New York Penal Law.
Second degree assault is very serious in nature. Since the consequences of second degree assault are severe, the punishment awarded to the offenders is also harsh in nature. This kind of felony is punishable by imprisonment and fines. The offender has to undergo the sentences awarded to him by the court. There are also various defenses available to them to ensure a fair trial. If the offender is convicted for the first time, then penalties are less as compared to a habitual offender.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Whether second degree assault is a misdemeanor or felony?
The facts and circumstances of the case tell whether second degree assault is a misdemeanor or felony. It also varies from state to state. In Colorado, second degree assault is a felony, whereas in Maryland, second degree assault is a misdemeanor. People who are convicted more than once are awarded longer sentences and greater fines.
What is the difference between assault and battery?
When the assault results in actual physical harm, the offender may be charged with battery. Though both of them are considered crimes and torts, the penalties in some states differ from other states as each of them has a distinct set of penalties.
What is the sentence of parole and fines for second degree assault under US law?
The compulsory sentence of parole is three years, and the minimum fine is $2,000, which may extend up to $500,000. In most cases, second degree assault is a class 4 felony.
What are the other offenses related to second degree assault?
It varies from state to state. In Colorado, there are other offenses that come under second degree assault, which are as follows:
- Menacing: This is a kind of offense that creates fear in the mind of a person that they are going to get seriously hurt.
- Domestic violence: This type of offense can take place only in a marital relationship. It needs an intimate relationship between the victim and the defendant.
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