Assault is often a crime of degree. Not all assaults are equal, and certain factors or elements of the crime determine whether an assault is a misdemeanor or a felony, whether it is punishable by 30 days in jail or life in prison. Often, a person may be charged with a more serious assault crime and a defense lawyer can negotiate a plea to a reduced charge. It is important to understand the basic differences between various assault crimes and their potential penalties:
- Assault and Battery - Assault and Battery are actually two separate crimes which are generally charged together. Assault is defined as the attempt to do bodily harm, whereas battery is actual intentional infliction of harm against another person. Simple assault alone is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. A conviction of assault and battery carries a penalty of up to 90 days in jail.
- Assault and Battery against a Family Member - Domestic violence is an assault crime that is typically punished as a misdemeanor on the first offense but a felony on second and subsequent offenses.
- Aggravated Assault and Battery - Aggravated assault is typically any assault which results in great bodily injury to the victim, but it can also include an assault by an able-bodied person of "robust health or strength" against a person who is "aged, decrepit, or incapacitated." It is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
- Assault with a Dangerous Weapon - This is any crime in which a "dangerous weapon" is used to perpetrate the assault or to inflict harm against a victim. A conviction of assault with a dangerous weapon carries a potential sentence of 10 years in prison.
- Assault with a Deadly Weapon or Shooting with Intent to Kill - If the instrument used to perpetrate an assault is likely to result in the death of the victim, an assailant may be charged with the most serious assault crimes and faces up to life in prison if convicted.
Applicable Oklahoma Laws
Earlier, we stated that assault is a crime of degrees: the extent of injury, the identity of the victim (family, police, etc.), and the use of a weapon to commit an assault. What exactly is a "dangerous weapon?"
Oklahoma law is intentionally vague in defining the term: 21 O.S. § 645 - Every person who, with intent to do bodily harm and without justifiable or excusable cause, commits any assault, battery, or assault and battery upon the person of another with any sharp or dangerous weapon, or who, without such cause, shoots at another, with any kind of firearm, air gun, conductive energy weapon or other means whatever, with intent to injure any person, although without the intent to kill such person or to commit any felony, upon conviction is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary not exceeding ten (10) years, or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one (1) year.
If the statute explicitly defined every single "dangerous weapon" that could be used in an assault, the text of the law would be infinite. Take the stereotypical image of the angry housewife who hits her husband with a frying pan. If the definition were not left ambiguous, stating "any dangerous weapon" and "other means whatever," then she could only be charged with simple assault (or, if she caused "grave bodily injury," aggravated assault.
As written, any object or instrument used in the commission of an assault could be considered dangerous if used in a manner to inflict harm. [caption id="attachment_1866" align="alignleft" width="300"]
Image Credit: Daniel Manrique, commons.wikimedia.org[/caption] In other words, if you just can't take the sound of the guy in the next cubicle crunching his ice and breathing through his mouth any more, and you smack him in the head, you may be charged with assault.
However, if you throw your stapler at his head, you'll likely be charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.
Examples of Domestic Assault in OKC
Yesterday, two Oklahoma City men were charged in separate cases of assault with a dangerous weapon. In one case, the dangerous weapon was a pickup truck. The accused man allegedly intentionally drove his truck at a high rate of speed into a parked motorcycle. He was also charged with malicious injury and destruction of property.
In the second case, the weapon was a frying pan filled with hot grease. As a woman was frying chicken for dinner, her husband allegedly told her she was a lousy cook, then grabbed her by the neck and forced her face into the frying pan, blistering her nose.