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RCW 9A.36.04

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

Assault is an attempted battery on another person when force or an offensive touching occurs, and it is not authorized. Under RCW 9A.36.041, you may be found guilty of assault in the fourth degree if you assault someone else under circumstances that do not constitute assault in the first, second, or third degree. You can face fourth-degree assault charges involving domestic violence if you share a family, household, or intimate relationship with the victim.

Assault in the fourth degree is usually charged as a gross misdemeanor. However, it can be charged as a felony if you have two or more prior domestic violence convictions within 10 years of any crime that occurred between July 23, 2017 and March 18, 2020. Prior convictions that could trigger felony assault in the fourth degree include repetitive domestic violence; assault in the first, second, or third degree; criminal harassment; or any out-of-state, federal, tribal, or municipal offense that is comparable to those set forth under state law.

2. Examples

You may face fourth-degree assault charges in a wide range of circumstances. You do not need to have caused a bodily injury to another person. It does not take major violent actions to commit assault in the fourth degree. Instead, simple assault can happen if the defendant creates an apprehension of a battery. The contact must be considered offensive by an ordinary person. For instance, if you throw your vase across the room in a rage, and a few shards hit your friend, you might face fourth-degree assault charges. Similarly, if you grasp someone by the arms and threaten to kill her, such that she fears imminent harm, even though you do not actually hurt her, you could face a fourth-degree assault charge. A domestic violence designation would be placed on the assault charge if the victim in that situation was someone with whom you had a familial, household, or intimate relationship, such as a spouse or a blood relative.

3. Related Offenses

Fourth-degree assault is a very common assault charge; it does not take very much to be charged with this crime. Sometimes domestic violence is charged in connection with fourth-degree assault. Depending on the situation, you could also face charges of disorderly conduct, harassment, or a crime related to property.

4. Defenses to Fourth-Degree Assault Charges

One of the most common defenses to fourth-degree assault charges is self-defense. We can use this defense if we can show that you acted to defend yourself by using reasonable and necessary force. We can also argue that you were using reasonable force in defending someone else. In some cases, these charges are brought entirely on the victim’s say-so. In your defense, we may be able to cast doubt on the victim’s credibility, present evidence of which the prosecutor is not aware that is favorable toward you, investigate other witnesses and present their testimony, or use favorable polygraph results.

5. Penalties

A fourth-degree assault is a gross misdemeanor. If convicted, you may face up to 364 days in jail. Additionally, you may be required to pay a significant fine — up to $5,000. You may lose your entitlement to have a firearm, and the police may issue a no-contact order to stop you from having further interactions with the victim.

Domestic violence fourth-degree assault is also a gross misdemeanor. When there is a domestic violence designation in the charge, you could face enhanced penalties. You may be ordered to complete a domestic violence treatment program, and the court may impose a no-contact order that keeps you away from your home or family. When the victim is someone in a certain occupation, meanwhile, fourth-degree assault may be punished as third-degree assault.

6.Criminal Defense for Fourth-Degree Assault Cases

At Smith & White, PLLC, our Tacoma assault defense lawyers provide a strong defense to charges brought under RCW 9A.36.041. We answer our phones 24/7 and provide free legal advice so that you can consider your path forward. Flexible payment options are available. Call us at (253) 203-1645 or complete our online form.

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