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Misdemeanor to a felony: factors that aggravate assault charges

On Behalf of | May 3, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Depending on the circumstances surrounding a case, prosecutors can charge an individual with assault in varying degrees. In Washington state, assault charges can range from first degree to fourth degree, first degree being the most serious while fourth degree being a misdemeanor.

But how does the prosecutor know which degree to charge the defendant?

Circumstances that push assault charges to the next degree

Under Washington laws, a misdemeanor assault is an attempt to cause battery or physical contact to another that a reasonable person would deem offensive. In charging this degree of assault, injury is not necessary.

However, if any of the following circumstances were present during the assault, the prosecutor may charge a higher degree of the offense:

  • The assault causes bodily injuries or death
  • There was a use of a deadly weapon
  • There was an intentional transmission of a human immunodeficiency virus or exposure to harmful substances
  • Intentionally causing harm to a pregnant person and their unborn child
  • Inflicted harm through torture or strangulation
  • Assault of a public or private transit service provider on official duty
  • Assault of a public servant, such as a firefighter on official duty
  • Assault of a law enforcement officer on official duty
  • Assault of a health care provider on official duty

Depending on which category the circumstance falls, the prosecutor can charge a person with first-, second- or third-degree assault.

Protect your rights

A conviction of an aggravated assault can lead to life-changing repercussions such as longer jail time and heftier fines, not to mention the possible loss of education and employment opportunities. This is why it is important for the defendant to know their rights, understand the charge against them and consult with a legal expert to determine their defense options.