Washington, D.C. Assault Crimes

Not all assault crimes are equal.  Assault crimes in Washington D.C. come in three tiers.  In increasing order of seriousness, they are:

  • Simple assault
  • Assault causing significant bodily injury (sometimes referred to as “felony assault”); and
  • Aggravated assault.

We will explain each assault offense a little more in depth.

Types of Assault Crimes

Simple Assault

Simple assault is a misdemeanor. It is by far the most commonly prosecuted assault offense in D.C.  Simple assault is the most likely charge for defendants who were involved in a bar fight or a low-level domestic disturbance where no one was seriously injured.

Assault causing significant bodily injury (“felony assault”)

The next higher level of assault is assault with significant bodily injury, sometimes also called felony assault.  This charge is commonly brought when the alleged assault victim has suffered some degree of bodily injury that requires immediate medical attention or hospitalization, but the injury does not rise to the level “serious bodily injury.”  A conviction for felony assault can be punished by up to three years in prison.

Aggravated Assault.

Aggravated assault is the highest assault crime in D.C., and is punishable by up to ten years in prison.  Aggravated assault occurs when the victim suffers “serious bodily injury” and is punishable by up to ten years in prison.

“Serious bodily injury” is not a clearly defined term.  Generally, it is on the level of injuries that can cause death, extreme physical pain, unconsciousness, or loss of limb.  Sometimes, the government can charge a defendant with aggravated assault even though the victim’s actual injuries might only warrant a charge of felony assault. In such situations, an attorney experienced with D.C. assault law may be able to persuade the prosecutor to reduce the charge.

Other Assault Offenses in Washington, D.C.

In addition to the three main types of assault described above, D.C. has a plethora of specialized assault offenses that apply to particular factual scenarios.  For example: assault with a dangerous weapon, assault on a police officer, and assault with intent to kill.

Defenses to D.C. Assault Charges

The most common defense to any type of assault charge is self-defense.  An experienced DC criminal defense lawyer can explain to you the finer points of the District’s self-defense law and help figure out whether this defense is viable in your case.

Outside of self-defense, it is also often viable to defend an aggravated or felony assault charge by showing that the victim did not suffer serious bodily injury.  For example, if you are charged with aggravated assault in a case where the victim was briefly hospitalized but suffered no permanent injury, you may be able to successfully convince the jury that the government overcharged the crime.

Finally, even when the prosecution has a strong case, you can often count on an experienced attorney to explore plea options. For example, if you are charged with simple assault, you may be eligible for a diversion program to avoid a permanent conviction.  If you are facing a more serious assault offense, some questions to ask include whether the offense can be reduced and how to avoid active jail or prison time?

Hire a D.C. Assault Attorney

If you have been charged with an assault-related offense in the District of Columbia, it is in your best interest to consult an attorney as soon as possible.  If you have more questions about DC assault charges, call us today and one of our lawyers can review the case with you.