Class A Serious Violent Felony

RCW 9A.36.011 describes a number of actions that may be considered First Degree Assault including: engaging in conduct that creates the risk of great bodily harm or death; actually causing great bodily harm or intentionally transmitting or exposing another to HIV or other noxious substance. Interestingly, the actual intent of the actor is as much of an element of this crime as the act of assault itself.

Even if a victim – whether that person is the targeted victim or a bystander – is not actually harmed in any fashion, the state can still prosecute if they are able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial that the actor merely intended to inflict “great bodily harm.” Typically we see this when there is an allegation of a shooting in the direction of others, regardless of whether anyone was struck. In other words when the use of a weapon produces, or is just likely to cause, great bodily harm or death it is potentially First Degree Assault. As mentioned, no harm actually needs to be inflicted, just the likelihood that the use of a deadly weapon is likely to cause such injury or death.

Seattle First Degree Assault Attorneys

In addition to the obviously deadly weapons such as firearms or knives, other items such as motor vehicles, clubs or hammers have been specifically classified by the courts as a deadly weapon if used in a manner capable of causing great bodily harm. While a pencil has been found to not be a deadly weapon under this statute per se, the ultimate question of whether an object is a deadly weapon is determined by the manner and circumstances of the object’s use; the intent and skill of the user; the degree of force applied; the part of the body where the object was used and the actual injuries that were inflicted.

Even if no weapon is used, if a person is assaulted in any manner – even by punching or kicking – and the resulting injury inflicts great bodily harm the actor may be charged with First Degree Assault. Under this portion of the statute, even one punch can be charged as first degree assault if the result of the punch is great bodily injury, regardless of whether great bodily injury was the actor’s intent. Washington recognizes three definitions of assault: (1) attempted battery–attempt, with unlawful force, to inflict bodily injury upon another; (2) actual battery–unlawful touching with criminal intent; and (3) common-law assault–putting another in apprehension of harm whether or not actor intends to inflict or is capable of inflicting that harm. All of these elements must be accompanied with the apparent present ability to give effect to that attempt if not prevented.

Intentional transmission of the HIV virus or other destructive substance with the intent to inflict great bodily harm may also be charged as First Degree Assault. One example of administering a destructive substance is poisoning or injecting a dangerous substance into another person.

Regardless of the resulting injury, however, a person may always claim self-defense. When facing an allegation of First Degree Assault there is always going to be a factual determination as to whether the force used in self-defense was reasonable under the surrounding facts and circumstances.

In addition to facing 93-123 months in prison for a defendant with a “zero” offender score, an additional and consecutive five year firearm enhancement can be imposed for crimes involving firearms, and an additional consecutive two years if a deadly weapon other than a firearm. A convicted defendant may earn up to 10% off as earned early release time on the underlying sentence, but not on any firearm/deadly weapon enhancement.