When a fight breaks out, the police may show up and place one or more person under arrest. However, the police do not always arrest the right person and an innocent person can end up facing criminal assault charges.
Assault charges can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the circumstances but any assault conviction can carry serious penalties. There are a number of legal defenses your Missouri criminal defense attorney can raise to get the charges against you dropped or reduced. Contact the Higher Level Legal Law Firm with any questions or concerns you have about your charges and constitutional rights.
Assault Charges in Missouri
Under Missouri law, assault charges are divided up by degree, based on the alleged facts involved. Missouri assault charges include:
- Assault in the First Degree
- Assault in the Second Degree
- Assault in the Third Degree
- Assault in the Fourth Degree
Domestic assault is a separate category of assault in Missouri and generally involves domestic violence or domestic disputes against a household or family member.
What the Prosecutor Must Prove in Assault Cases
In a criminal case, the Missouri prosecutor must prove each element of the offense "beyond a reasonable doubt" in order to get a conviction. If the prosecutor fails to prove each element, the defendant is not guilty of the crime. The elements of assault charges depend on the type of assault.
Under R.S.Mo. 565.050, “a person commits the offense of assault in the first degree if he or she attempts to kill or knowingly causes or attempts to cause serious physical injury to another person.”
First-degree assault is a Class B felony. The penalties for a Class B felony conviction can include 5 to 15 years in prison.
Under R.S.Mo. 565.052, a person commits the offense of second-degree assault if he or she:
- Attempts to kill or knowingly causes or attempts to cause serious physical injury to another person under the influence of sudden passion arising out of adequate cause; or
- Attempts to cause or knowingly causes physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument; or
- Recklessly causes serious physical injury to another person; or
- Recklessly causes physical injury to another person by means of the discharge of a firearm.
Second-degree assault is a Class D felony. The penalties for a Class D felony conviction can include up to 7 years in prison.
Under R.S.Mo. 565.054, “a person commits the offense of assault in the third degree if he or she knowingly causes physical injury to another person.”
Third-degree assault is a Class E felony. The penalties for a Class E felony conviction can include up to 4 years in prison.
Under R.S.Mo. 565.056, a person commits fourth-degree assault if:
- The person attempts to cause or recklessly causes physical injury, physical pain, or illness to another person;
- With criminal negligence the person causes physical injury to another person by means of a firearm;
- The person purposely places another person in apprehension of immediate physical injury;
- The person recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person;
- The person knowingly causes or attempts to cause physical contact with a person with a disability, which a reasonable person, who does not have a disability, would consider offensive or provocative; or
- The person knowingly causes physical contact with another person knowing the other person will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.
Fourth-degree assault is generally a misdemeanor in Missouri. Depending on the situation, fourth-degree assault can be charged as a class A misdemeanor or a class C misdemeanor. As a class A misdemeanor, a conviction can result in up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. As a class C misdemeanor, a conviction can result in up to 15 days in jail and a fine of up to $700.
Aggravated Assault Enhanced Penalties
When an assault is committed against certain “special victims,” the penalties can be enhanced. A special victim for assault charges can include:
- Law enforcement officer;
- Emergency personnel;
- Probation and parole officers;
- Elderly person;
- Disabled person; and
- Other specified special victims.
Assault against a special victim can raise the class of criminal charge as follows:
- First-degree assault to a Class A felony
- Second-degree assault to a Class B felony
- Third-degree assault to a Class D felony
- Second-degree assault to a Class A misdemeanor
Defending Your Missouri Assault Charge
Being arrested for assault does not necessarily mean you are guilty of a crime. In a fight or dispute, the police can arrest the wrong person or not take time to get the full story before making an arrest. There are a number of potential legal defenses that your Missouri criminal defense lawyer can raise to get the charges dropped or result in a not guilty verdict.
Self-Defense or Defense of Others
In Missouri, it is an affirmative defense to assault charges if the defendant was acting in self-defense or in defense of another person. Generally, self-defense requires showing that person used force upon another to the extent he or she reasonably believed necessary to defend himself or herself or a third person.
Self-defense force can be used to defend one from what is reasonably believed to be the use or imminent use of unlawful force by another person.
Even if the defendant is wrong about the threat to another person, if he or she reasonably believed unlawful force was going to occur, he or she may have a defense to an assault charge.
Consult an Experienced Missouri Criminal Defense Attorney
Assault charges can carry serious penalties, including dealing with a criminal conviction on your record for years to come. Higher Level Legal is an experienced Missouri criminal defense Law Firm who can help you develop the best defense possible to protect your rights.