Assault is a very serious crime in New York. There are many different types of criminal assault charges under New York law, depending on the victim, if a weapon was used, and the seriousness of the injury.
Definition of Assault
New York law defines assault as causing injury to another person. There is usually (though not always) an element of intent to the crime of assault, meaning the defendant had to intend to cause injury to another person; accidental injuries aren't assaults.
New York assault laws differentiate between physical injury and serious physical injury. A physical injury is something that causes "impairment of physical condition or substantial pain." A serious physical injury "creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes death or serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ."
If no injury occurred, a person generally will not be charged with assault. However, it is possible to be charged with other related crimes or violations.
Penalties for Assault in New York
New York law lists over two dozen specific assault crimes. The assault charges someone may face for injuring another person can vary depending on a number of different factors, including:
- The severity of the injury. Penalties for causing serious physical injury are usually more severe.
- The victim. New York law punishes assault on certain categories of people more harshly. The long list of assault victims who may have special protection under New York law includes police officers, firefighters, public health workers, housing authority employees, transit employees, school employees, traffic enforcement officers, social services employees and medical professionals. Assaulting a child or an elderly person may also result in additional penalties.
- The intent of the accused person. If the accused person intended to cause injury or serious injury, the penalties will generally be more severe than if he or she caused the injury through recklessness or negligence. In addition, if the assault occurred while the accused person was attempting to prevent certain workers (such as medical professionals or police officers or other public workers) from doing their jobs, the penalties will be higher.
- Whether there was a weapon or dangerous instrument involved. Causing injury by using a dangerous instrument or a deadly weapon will likely result in more serious charges. A dangerous instrument is anything that is "readily capable of causing death or other serious injury," including a vehicle. Deadly weapons include things like guns, certain kinds of knives, blackjacks and brass knuckles.
- The accused person's prior criminal history. Assault penalties are likely to increase if the accused person had previously been convicted of a violent crime.
Assault may be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances.
Common New York Assault Charges
Some of the most common assault charges are assault in the third degree, assault in the second degree, assault in the first degree, and aggravated assault.
Assault in the Third Degree (also known as "Simple Assault")
A person may be guilty of assault in the third degree if they 1) cause injury to another person with the intent to cause injury, 2) recklessly cause physical injury to another person, or 3) negligently cause physical injury using a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. This is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.
Assault in the Second Degree
Generally, there are four ways to commit Assault in the second degree: 1) causing physical injury with a weapon, 2) causing serious physical injury, 3) causing physical injury to a police officer, certain public employees, and certain health care workers with the intent to prevent that person from doing their jobs, and 4) causing physical injury to children under a certain age. There are several other ways to commit second degree assault. Assault in the second degree is a Class D felony, punishable by 2 to 7 years in prison.
Assault in the First Degree
A person may be charged with assault in the first degree if he or she causes serious physical injury (with the intent to cause serious physical injury) using a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument or intentionally permanently disables another person. Assault in the first degree is a Class B felony, punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
There are two situations where someone may be charged with aggravated assault: 1) if they intentionally and seriously injure a police officer by means of a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon, or 2) they commit assault in the third degree against a child under age 11 and were previously convicted of a similar crime within the past 3 years. Aggravated assault on a police officer can be punished by up to 30 years in prison.
When someone is charged with assault, it is not uncommon for them to be charged with related lesser charges at the same time. For example, a person may be charged with both assault in the first degree and criminal possession of a weapon, or assault in the second degree and endangering the welfare of a child. This increases the prosecution's chances of a successful conviction.
Attempted crimes occur when someone intends to commit a crime and "engages in conduct which tends to affect the commission of such crime." For example, if someone fires a gun at another person at close range, but the shot misses, the shooter could not be convicted of assault because there was no injury. However, the shooter could potentially be convicted of attempted assault. Penalties for attempted assault tend to be lower than assault, but they are still serious.
Potential Defenses to New York Assault Charges
The penalties for assault are severe in New York, but there are ways to defend against assault charges and to get charges reduced or dismissed. That's why it is important to have a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney at your side.
For example, intent to injure is a crucial component of many assault crimes in New York. A knowledgeable attorney who understands New York's complex assault laws may be able to show that you did not intend to cause injury, thereby helping to reduce your charges.
Self-defense is another potential defense against assault charges (in New York, self-defense is referred to as "justification"). A knowledgeable attorney may also be able to challenge the circumstances of your arrest, the reliability of witnesses and evidence, or other elements of the prosecution's case.
If you are facing assault charges, contact Frost & Kavanaugh to learn how we can help. Frost & Kavanaugh is widely experienced in defending against criminal charges, from simple assault all the way up to attempted murder. Every assault case is different and the potential defenses will also be different. At Frost & Kavanaugh, we pride ourselves on giving every client the individual attention and personal service the client deserves when fighting these serious charges deserves.