Assault with a Deadly Weapon Law & Defense
PC 245(a)(1), 245(a)(2) & 245(a)(4)
Information on the crimes of assault can be found at California penal code section 245 (PC 245). There are dozens of variations of assault charges, but the most common assault charges include:
- PC 245(a)(1) assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm
- PC 245(a)(2) assault with a firearm
- PC 245(a)(4) assault with means of force likely to produce great bodily injury (GBI)
To assault someone means to intentionally use force against another person in an effort to harm that other person and the amount of force used against that other person was reasonably likely to produce an injury.
It does not matter if the defendant actually succeeded in injuring the other person. The act of trying to injure to another person is sufficient for assault charges. For example, if a defendant purposefully shoots another person, but the bullet misses the other person, the defendant may be still be charged with assault with a firearm even though the other person was never it by the bullet (PC 245(a)(2).
Assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm is charged where a deadly weapon, other than a firearm, is used in an attempt to harm another person. This includes knives, vehicles, brass knuckles, bats, etc. (PC 245(a)(1)). When a weapon is intentionally used by the defendant to harm another person, but the weapon used is not deadly weapon, such as trying to punch someone (fighting) or throwing a cell phone at someone, the defendant may be charged with misdemeanor assault (PC 240).
Assault with a firearm is charged where a weapon, that qualifies as a firearm, is used an attempt to harm another person. This includes, handguns, shotguns, zip guns, rifles, and more (PC 245(a)(2)). If the gun used to assault someone else is a machinegun or an assault rifle the charged is PC 245(a)(3) and the maximum prison exposure is raised to twelve years (More on assault penalties below).
Assault with means likely to produce great bodily injury (GBI) is charged where the defendant uses intentional force against against person that is reasonably likely to severely harm that other person. For example, pushing someone down a flight of stairs (PC 245(a)(4). Likely to produce great bodily injury means that if the defendant's attempt to harm another person was actually successful than more than ordinary harm would have occurred.
Sentences for Assault Crimes
Most assault crimes may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony (wobblers).
PC 240 simple assault is charged as a misdemeanor. The maximum sentence for PC 240 is up to one hundred eighty days in the county jail.
PC 245(a)(1) assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm, or a vehicle may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. Misdemeanor PC 245(a)(1) carries a maximum one year jail sentence. Felony PC 245(a) carries up to a four year prison sentence.
PC 245(a)(2) assault with a firearm may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. Misdemeanor PC 245(a)(2) carries a maximum one year jail sentence. Felony PC 245(a)(2) carries a maximum four year prison sentence.
PC 245(a)(3) assault with a machinegun or assault rifle is charged as a felony. The maximum sentence for PC 245(a)(3) is twelve years in prison.
PC 245(a)(4) assault with force likely to produce GBI may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. Misdemeanor PC 245(a)(4) carries a maximum one year jail sentence. Felony PC 245(a)(4) carries a maximum four year prison sentence.
In some assault cases it might be possible to reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor charge, reduce the sentence associated with the charge, or even change the charge to a lesser offense. Whether or not a reduction of the assault charge, or a reduction of the sentence associated with an assault charge is available, depends on the circumstances of the case and the defendant's criminal history.
Three Strikes Sentencing
Assault charges of PC 245(a)(1), PC 245(a)(2), and PC 245(a)(3), are considered serious crimes as defined under California's Three Strikes Sentencing Law. Therefore, these assault crimes are considered strike offenses. PC 245(a)(4) assault by force likely to produce GBI is not a strike offense.
Suspended prison sentences and split prison sentences are not available for felony assault crimes charged under PC 245 (See PC 1170(h)).
Probation Sentence: Probation is a period of supervision in lieu of an actual jail or prison sentence. Probation sentences carry terms of probation that must be followed in order to avoid an actual jail or prison sentence. A probation sentence may be available in some assault cases charged under PC 245(a)(1), PC 245(a)(2), and PC 245(a)(3), if the judge finds there are unusual circumstances in the case. In other words, probation is not ordinarily granted if the defendant is convicted of these assault charges. However, a probation sentence for PC 245(a)(4) assault with means likely to produce GBI does not require a judge to find that there are unusual circumstance before granting a probation sentence.
Crime of Moral Turpitude: Assault crimes are considered to be crimes of moral turpitude, which means that assaulting someone is considered to be morally wrong. Crimes of moral turpitude carry special consequences for non-United States citizens and defendants who possess professional licenses, such as doctors, dentists, lawyers, nurses, teachers, etc. Immigrants may be deported upon a conviction for assault and licensed professional may have his or her license suspended or revoked. For more information on crimes of moral turpitude and their impact on immigrants and professionals see immigrants or professionals.
Collateral Punishment for Assault
In addition to any jail or prison sentence, criminal convictions for assault can lead to other severe consequences, including: such as: harsh parole or probation terms, penalty fines and fees, civil lawsuits, restitution orders, restraining orders, employment loss, anger management classes, loss of rights, including the right to own a firearm, and more.
Defense to Assault Crimes
Common defenses to assault charges include: insufficient evidence to prove the defendant intended to harm another person, intoxication, insanity, self defense, defense of other people, statute of limitations (three years for felony PC 245(a)(1), PC 245(a)(2), and PC 245(a)(4) charges and one year for misdemeanor charges of those same crimes), mistake of fact, coerced confessions, illegal search and seizure, and more.
For more information on the common defenses to PC 647.6 crimes, please visit defenses.
If you are charged with any assault crimes, including assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm, assault with a firearm, assault by means likely to produce GBI, or simple assault, contact our criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultations. Our team of successful and experienced attorney, including experienced trial attorneys, will explain your rights and defense options. Call today!
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More Assault Crimes
- PC 241.2(a) Assault on School Property
- PC 241(c) Assault on Emergency Person
- PC 241.8 Assault on Military Person