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RCW 9A.36.011 - Assault 1 (Assault in the First Degree)

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

Assault in the first degree (Assault 1) is a class A felony. To obtain a conviction for assault in the first degree, a prosecutor will need to show beyond a reasonable doubt that you had an intent to inflict great bodily harm and did one of the following things: (1) assaulted another person with a firearm or deadly weapon, or force likely to produce great bodily harm or death; (2) transmitted HIV to a vulnerable adult or child; (3) assaulted another person and caused great bodily harm; or (4) administered, transmitted, or exposed another person to poison or another noxious or destructive substance.

2. Examples

Assault in the first degree is a serious charge that may be brought by prosecutors in many different situations. Some of these situations are obvious. For instance, if you pistol-whipped a person in a bar, you could be charged with assault in the first degree. However, other situations may be more ambiguous. You could face charges if you provided a guest with a dish that had a poisonous agent in it without having the requisite intent if, for example, you did not realize that the agent was poisonous. We would raise that point in your defense either in negotiations with the prosecutor before trial or in front of the jury.

3. Related Offenses

If you used a firearm to assault someone, you may face weapons charges. For instance, certain groups of people in Washington are prohibited from possessing firearms. When an intimate, familial, or household relationship exists or existed between the victim and the perpetrator, assault in the first degree may be charged as domestic violence. Depending on the victim’s age, child abuse or child endangerment charges may be brought. When the victim is a child, and the perpetrator has any of certain roles in the child’s life, such as a parent, criminal mistreatment in the first degree may be charged.

4. Defenses

We may be able to raise defense of self or defense of others. When you use reasonable force to defend yourself, there is a complete defense to assault charges. The force that you use to defend yourself or another person cannot be disproportionate; you cannot use more force than what is necessary. Similarly, it is lawful to use force to stop or try to prevent malicious trespass or other malicious interference with personal or real property. Again, you can only use the force and means that a reasonably prudent person would use, given the same or similar conditions that appeared in your case and taking into consideration all the circumstances and facts known to you at the time or before the incident. When a jury instruction is given for this defense, the jury is told that the prosecution bears the burden of establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that the force that the defendant used was not lawful.

5. Penalties

If the prosecution is able to secure a conviction for first-degree assault, you can face 20 years to life in prison and a $50,000 fine. Additionally, you will have a criminal record. The record can affect your ability to secure housing, employment, or a professional license and can haunt you far into the future. It is critical to retain an attorney to defend you against these charges or try to make sure that you face a relatively lenient sentence.

6. Criminal Defense for First-Degree Assault Cases

At Smith & White, PLLC, our Tacoma assault defense lawyers provide a strong defense to first-degree assault charges brought under RCW 9A.36.011. Financing for legal representation is available so that cost does not need to be a concern. We answer our phones 24/7 and provide free legal advice so that you can consider the best course of action for you. Call us at (253) 203-1645 or complete our online form to get immediate assistance regarding an assault charge and take the first step toward protecting your rights and liberties.

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