If you injure another person without legal justification, you may be guilty of assault under New York State law. Like other offenses, assault charges vary by degree. Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony depends on certain factors, such as:

  •     Whether you used a weapon
  •     The extent of the victim’s injury
  •     Whether you caused the injury while committing another crime
  •     Whether the victim was accorded special protection under state law

Misdemeanor assault

Under N.Y. Penal Law § 120.00, you commit misdemeanor assault (also known as Third Degree Assault) by recklessly or intentionally causing physical injury to someone else. The charge can still apply even if the injury was due to criminal negligence instead of actual malice if a deadly weapon was used.

This category of assault is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, a $1,000 fine, and/or three-years probation.

Felony assault

New York law recognizes two levels of felony assault: Second Degree Assault, which is a Class D felony, and First Degree Assault, a Class B felony. Both types cover injuries caused intentionally or recklessly by a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.  Injuries can vary in severity from temporary impairment to long-term disfigurement or significant risk of death.

Second Degree Assault occurs when you:

  •  intentionally injure someone with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument
  • injure someone who  is performing a lawful duty, such as a police officer, firefighter, paramedic, or medical personnel
  • give someone a drug or substance without their consent with the intent to cause unconsciousness, physical impairment, or injury
  • assault someone younger than 11 or older than 65

If convicted of this Class D felony, you can spend three to seven years in prison. If you are not a repeat offender, a New York judge may opt instead to impose a jail sentence of one year or less.

First Degree Assault is the most serious assault crime. It requires that the person or people you hurt suffer serious physical injury. You can be charged with First Degree Assault if you:

  • seriously injure someone with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument
  • permanently disfigure the other person
  • recklessly engage in activities that could potentially kill someone else (e.g. driving a vehicle into a crowd)
  • assault someone while committing or attempting to commit a felony

First Degree Assault is a Class B felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

Assault convictions have harsh consequences, so if you are charged with misdemeanor or felony assault in New York, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. They can present mitigating evidence, such as self-defense or false accusation, which could persuade the prosecutor to drop the charges or offer alternatives to a conviction and jail time. Alternatively, an attorney knowledgeable in New York’s assault laws may be able to convince a jury that you did not intend to harm the other person or, at least, the injuries were not serious enough to warrant a felony assault charge. Whatever the outcome, an experienced defense attorney will make it as favorable as possible for you. Julie Rendelman is a New York State criminal defense lawyer representing clients accused of assault. Call 212-951-1232 to set up a consultation with Ms. Rendelman.