Even if the other person doesn’t want to press charges, the prosecutor will normally file charges anyway. Unfortunately, prosecutors have a tendency to file charges and ask questions later. The prosecutor will also decide on the degree of assault to be charged.
In Seattle and many other King County courts, charges are often times filed when there is no injury, no witness, and no other evidence to back up the statement of the accuser. It is also common for people to be charged with a level of assault that is far too serious, given the allegations.
If you can speak with an assault attorney before you are charged, this gives your counsel time to prepare a defense. Pre-charge negotiations can result in the prosecutor not filing charges or prevent an in custody situation from occurring. If you have already been charged, you should not remain unrepresented. All too often, unrepresented defendants have their rights trampled on by law enforcement, investigators, and over zealous judges.
Even if the other person was injured, you may have been acting in self-defense. A self defense argument can be raised if any of the following applies:
- You were physically attacked
- You were not attacked but had a reasonable belief that you would be attacked
- You used force while defending another person
- You were defending your personal property or real estate
Domestic Violence Assault
If a domestic relationship is established between yourself and the alleged victim, a domestic violence designation will be added to the charge to increase the severity of the consequences. In these cases, it is very important to cease contact with the alleged victim, in order to prevent a violation of any court orders that prevent contact.
4th Degree Assault
Assault in the fourth degree or simple assault is the most commonly charged assault crime in WA State. It is a gross misdemeanor that is punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine, with no mandatory minimum (unless there is a special designation such as domestic violence). 4th degree assault is widely defined, and any intentional unwanted touching can meet the criteria for this crime.
In Seattle and other King County Courts, assault 4 charges are frequently based on the statement of the complaining witness alone. Often times, complaining witness statements are untruthful and many people are wrongfully accused of this crime. If there are marks on the alleged victim, the prosecutor will likely use this as evidence against you. However, it can sometimes be argued that the mark or bruise is from an unrelated event.
There are many ways in which an experienced criminal defense attorney can mitigate or get the Assault 4 charge completely dismissed, especially if the only evidence is based upon the complaining witness’ testimony. In many cases, we are able to:
- Present evidence that the prosecutor is unaware of
- Interview additional witnesses
- Prove that you acted in self-defense or in the defense of another person
- Use favorable polygraph results in negotiations
- Discredit statements made by the alleged victim or other witnesses
2nd Degree Assault
Assault in the second degree is a Class B felony that is punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a $20,000 fine. If found guilty of a first offense Assault 2 charge, the sentencing guidelines require a minimum of three months in custody. Assault 2 is considered a violent strike offense. Additionally, enhanced penalties can apply if a weapon was used in the commission of the crime.
In Washington State, you can be charged with 2nd degree assault if any of the following apply:
- There are substantial injuries such as a fractured bone
- There are accusations of choking or strangulation
- A deadly weapon was used in the commission of a crime
Substantial Injury – When an arrest is made, the medical diagnosis of the injuries has not been revealed. However, suspects are often booked on assault in the second degree, when in fact the injuries only meet the criteria for assault in the fourth or third degree. The most common instance of this is when it is anticipated that there is a facial fracture or a broken nose.
Strangulation – The facts are essentially a misdemeanor assault in the fourth degree, since a serious injury did not result. During the police investigation, law enforcement will often times coach a witness into discussing any touching of the neck area. The police report will then describe the contact as strangulation as opposed to just unwanted touching. An important defense can be convincing the prosecutor or jury that either there was no contact in the neck area or that the contact did not involve choking.
Deadly Weapon – Law enforcement and witnesses can present skewed facts of an incident when there was a deadly weapon involved, especially when it was never actually used during the assault. Deadly weapons can include guns, knives, bats, motor vehicles, and many other items that have the potential to cause substantial bodily harm.
It is very rare that we come across an assault case that is hopeless. We can normally find facts in your favor after doing our own independent investigation. Even if there was an admission of guilt, if you are a first time offender, negotiations with the prosecutor can still result in a favorable outcome. In over 95% of our assault cases, we are able to negotiate an outcome that results in charges being dropped or significantly reduced.
At Beckwith Criminal Law, we are experienced assault lawyers in the courts of Seattle, Bellevue, and throughout King County & Snohomish County. Please call us any day of the week to have your questions answered during the free consultation.