Assault and Battery are known as crimes against persons as they involve either the threat of violence (Assault) or the actual physical touching or infliction of injury (Battery).
Assault has varying degrees from 3rd degree (the least severe) to 1st Degree Assault (the most severe).
1st Degree Assault Charges– Class A or B Felony
Assault 1st consists of attempting to kill or attempting to cause serious physical injury to another person. It is a class B felony unless the defendant actually inflicts serious physical injury on the victim, in which case it is a class A felony.
Under Missouri law, proof that a deadly weapon was fired at the victim, wounding them, is sufficient evidence of 1st Degree Assault as a class B felony.
To raise the offense from a class B felony to a class A felony, there need to be evidence that the victim suffered serious physical injury. 1st Degree Assault degree embraces “attempting” to kill or cause serious physical injury. According to the Missouri Supreme Court, the term “attempt” used anywhere in the Criminal Code means “substantial step attempt”.
In proving an attempt to kill or cause serious physical injury, the State must present evidence showing the specific intent to commit assault, not just negligent endangerment of the victim. For Example, merely pointing a gun at someone, coupled with threats to kill does not constitute assault in the first degree.
2nd Degree Assault Charges– Class B or C Felony
Assault in the second degree can be committed in a variety of ways. In all cases, assault in the second degree is a class C felony, unless the assault is on a law enforcement officer, in which case it is a class B felony under Missouri law.
The first category of assault in the second degree is attempting to kill or knowingly causing or attempting to cause serious physical injury to another person while under the influence of sudden passion arising out of adequate cause. This offense is analogous to voluntary manslaughter, except that death does not result.
The second category of assault in the second degree is attempting to cause or knowingly causing physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.
The third category of assault in the second degree is recklessly causing serious physical injury to another.
The fourth category of the offense embraces operation of a motor vehicle in this state while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs or alcohol and acting with criminal negligence while operating the vehicle so as to cause physical injury to any other person.
In the final category of second degree assault, a person commits that offense by recklessly causing physical injury to another person by means of discharge of a firearm.
3rd Degree Assault Charges — Misdemeanor
Assault in the third degree is committed in six ways:
- by attempting to cause or recklessly causing physical injury to another person;
- by causing physical injury to another person, with criminal negligence, by means of a deadly weapon;
- by purposely placing another person in apprehension of immediate physical injury;
- by recklessly engaging in conduct which creates a grave risk of death or serious physical injury to another person;
- by knowingly causing physical contact with another person knowing the other person will regard the contact as offensive or provocative; or
- by knowingly causing physical contact with an incapacitated person, which a reasonable person, who is not incapacitated, would consider offensive or provocative.
Assault in the third degree is a class A misdemeanor, except that placing another in apprehension of immediate physical injury or knowingly causing offensive or provocative physical contact with another are class C misdemeanors. Assault in the third degree of a law enforcement officer or emergency personnel is limited to three categories of assault third degree: (1) recklessly causing physical injury, (2) placing the protected person in apprehension of physical injury, or (3) knowingly causing or attempting to cause physical contact without consent. This form of assault third degree is a class A misdemeanor in all cases.
Common Defenses to Assault Charges
The most common defense is either the defendant did not actually assaulted the claimed victim or that the assault was justified as self defense. Many factors go into these defenses, such as comparable size and strength of the victim and the defendant and what was the basis for the self defense since self defense does not allow the defendant to escalate the level of violence. In example, in most situations, being pushed does not justify shooting someone in self defense. The trickier situation is when the levels of violence are closer together, such as responding to a push with a punch, that can be argued as justifiable self defense and will ultimately need to be decided by a jury if the facts justified the escalation of violence.
Provocation. While provocation does not exclude criminal responsibility it is relevant on the issue of culpable mental state in assault cases. Similarly, sudden passion arising from adequate cause affects the gradation of assault charges. Provocation involves more than insults, the Missouri Supreme Court has commented that “little more” than words is required, it generally has been held that provocation must be sufficient to arouse such passion as to render a person of ordinary temperament incapable of reflection, or to obscure reason. Usually, there must be some actual or threatened force or violence to the person to constitute provocation amounting to adequate cause for sudden passion.
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