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How Is Assault and Battery Defined in New York?

Under New York penal law, there is no such thing as battery. It’s not even mentioned in that law; it only mentions assault, which is really the equivalent of what others call battery. Assault simply means the intention of causing of some injury to another person. Just about all of the various assault charges are derivatives of that simple definition.

What Are The Different Levels Of Assault Under New York State Laws?

In New York, there are many different classifications of assault. The most basic charge would be assault in the third degree, then it goes up to assault in the second degree, and finally assault in the first degree. Assault in the third degree is commonly called Simple Assault, which is causing someone harm, with the intent to do so. It doesn’t matter how severe the injury is—as long as it is some significant pain or injury, in New York that is a misdemeanor charge punishable up to a year in jail.

The next level is assault in the second degree, which can be one of a couple of basic combinations. If you assault somebody with the intent to cause serious physical harm—even if you don’t—as long as you cause some harm, that would be assault in the second degree. Additionally, if you assault somebody, regardless of your intent to commit serious bodily harm, and you do cause serious bodily harm, say broken bone or something like that, those two things are the general definitions of assault in the second degree. Assault in the second degree is much more serious, and becomes what’s called a violent Class D felony. This has a mandatory jail sentence, which is a big distinction from third-degree assault.

The next level is assault in the first degree, which also has several different possibilities. The most common ones would be with intent to cause serious physical injury, you actually cause serious physical injury by the use of a weapon or a dangerous instrument. It is also first-degree assault if you cause an injury with the intent to disfigure or amputate. The penalties for this are extremely serious, because assault in the first degree is now considered a Class B violent felony. What that means is if you are convicted of that charge, the minimum sentence that the law allows, even for a first offense, is 5 years in state prison. The maximum is 25 years. If it’s a second violent offense, the minimum sentence is 10 years. You can see that these charges are among the most serious charges that we have.

How Can Assault Charges Be Enhanced or Aggravated in New York?

There are several ways to enhance or aggravate an assault charge. If you use a weapon in an assault, that makes it at least assault in the second degree. If you also cause serious injury, you get up to assault in the first degree. As we mentioned, these are extremely serious charges. If you have the intent to cause serious physical injury, even if you don’t, that’s going to aggravate the charge. If the person that’s being assaulted is a police officer, even a simple assault becomes a felony of assault in the second degree, subject to state imprisonment. There are many ways to enhance or aggravate an assault charge, but these are the most common.

Does Someone Have To Be Physically Injured In Order For Assault Charges To Be Brought?

For an actual assault charge, there has to be the showing of some significant injury, and it has to be more than someone was slapped in the face and it momentarily hurts. This would not be assault, because there is no real significant injury or substantial pain involved; instead, this would be a lesser charge called harassment. In many situations, particularly in domestic violence cases, the charges start out as assault, because the victim alleges that they were assaulted. Then it turns out that they never went to the hospital and they never had any significant injury that can be documented, so the charge then gets downgraded to attempted assault, which means that there is no significant injury. It is important to note that, even if there is no actual injury alleged, charges of attempted assault in any degree can be charged and sustained, resulting in long prison sentences without any injury.

What Are Some Potential Defense Strategies Employed In Assault Cases? Can Self Defense Be Employed?

There are several defense strategies for an assault case, including self-defense, which is the most common. Under New York law, it’s not called self-defense; it’s called justification, which means that a person has a right to defend himself, assuming that he has no reasonable way of retreating, and he also has a right to defend somebody else. For instance, if somebody is attempting to rape or assault a woman, you come upon it and you hit the guy to defend the woman, that’s not an assault. Even though you are not defending yourself, you are defending somebody else.

For more information on Assault & Battery In New York, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (718) 793-5700 today.

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