In New York state, a person may be charged with assault for intentionally or recklessly (or even negligently in some cases) causing physical injury to another person.
If the injury is serious or if a weapon was used, the charges will be more severe. Other factors will also increase charges–for example, if multiple people were involved in the assault (gang assault) or if the victim was a child or a police officer. Even the lowest degree of assault (assault in the third degree) is a serious offense that can carry up to one year in jail. Higher degrees of assault are felonies that can carry very serious penalties, including lengthy prison terms.
Because assault laws are so serious, it is critical that a person charged with assault seek the aid of an experienced New York criminal defense lawyer who understands the various ways to challenge assault law charges. The attorneys at Charles A. Ross & Associates are highly skilled at bringing such challenges, which often include examination of the following factors:
- Actual Physical Injury
Every degree of assault requires an actual physical injury. Merely hitting another person is not an assault if no physical injury occurs. “Physical injury” means the impairment of a physical condition or substantial pain. “Serious physical injury” is injury that creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes death or disfigurement, seriously impaired health, or the loss or impairment of a bodily organ.
Prosecutors can be overzealous when it comes to assault charges and may claim that the injury sustained was more serious than it actually was. It is often possible to challenge the seriousness of the injury in order to get the charges reduced or even dismissed entirely.
A very important consideration is whether the defendant has a viable self-defense claim. Anyone threatened with physical force has the right to defend him or herself against actual or perceived threats of violence. You also have the right to defend other people who are being attacked or threatened.
- Background and Relationship of the Parties
Often, accusations of assault and similar offenses are emotionally driven and motivated by the desire for revenge. The complaining witness may exaggerate the events, the extent of the injuries, or make other unsupported claims.
A good assault lawyer will explore the complaining witness’ background to determine whether there may have been an underlying motive for making the accusation. If the complaining witness has a history of violence or if there has been a tumultuous relationship between the parties, those factors may persuade the prosecutor to reconsider the charges or sway a jury to find for the defendant.
Related Charges: There are several charges related to assault, such as menacing, harassment, and reckless endangerment. These are also serious offenses; however there are numerous challenges available to these charges, and a good criminal defense lawyer will often be successful in getting the charges dismissed or reduced.
If you are looking for information on sex offenses, please see our sexual assault page.
Important information for non-citizens: Convictions for assault can carry severe immigration penalties, including deportation. Immigration consequences are often harsher than the criminal sentence. If you are a non-citizen charged with assault, you need a defense attorney who understands the potential immigration consequences of a conviction and can help you avoid or minimize them. Our skilled and knowledgeable attorneys can help protect you from those consequences.