The circumstances that lead to allegations of assault are rarely as simple as prosecutors would have us believe. Many factors have to be considered, including the intention of the accused. For example, did the defendant intend to cause bodily harm to another person, or was the injury an accident resulting from a momentary lapse in judgment? In other cases, accused individuals were only trying to defend themselves.
In Missouri, an assault charge is placed in one of three categories: third-degree, second-degree or first-degree. First-degree assault and second-degree assault are both felonies, and both charges involve questions of whether the accused person intended to harm someone else.
A person can be convicted of first-degree assault if the prosecution can prove that the defendant knowingly tried to end another person's life or knowingly caused or tried to cause serious injury to another person.
First-degree assault is further broken down into Class A and Class B felonies. Generally, a first-degree assault is a Class A felony if the victim suffered serious injury. However, if the alleged victim is a police officer or some other protected individual such as a firefighter, then a first-degree assault charge may carry a Class A designation even if the assault did not cause serious injury.
If convicted of Class A first-degree assault, a defendant could face a prison sentence of 10 to 30 years. In some cases, people convicted of first-degree assault are sentenced to life in prison.
Generally, a first-degree assault is designated as a Class B felony if the assault did not result in serious injury. Being convicted of a Class B felony could lead to a prison sentence of five to 15 years.
A charge of second-degree assault may be brought if the prosecution believes the defendant tried to kill or seriously injure another person in a moment of sudden passion. Second-degree assault charges often arise from family disputes. A person may also face a second-degree assault charge for causing injury through reckless driving or recklessly discharging a firearm.
Second-degree assault is categorized as a Class C felony, and a person convicted of this kind of assault could face a prison sentence of up to seven years.
How an assault charge is categorized has significant bearing on the defense strategy. If you have been charged with any kind of assault, then it is in your best interest to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. A criminal defense attorney with knowledge of Missouri law can investigate the circumstances of your case and develop a custom strategy to protect your rights and freedom.