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What is considered “assault” in Missouri?

On Behalf of | Jan 22, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Most people don’t think about what legally makes an action “assault” until they find themselves facing an assault charge. Many states – including Kansas – recognize two separate offenses of assault and battery. In Missouri, there is no offense called “battery.” Actions that would be considered battery in other states fall under assault in this state.

However, Missouri does recognize four “degrees” of assault. Each involves specified actions and circumstances.

First-degree assault

This is the most serious. It involves trying to kill or “knowingly causing/attempting to cause serious physical injury to someone.” It’s a Class B felony that carries a potential prison sentence of five to fifteen years.

Second-degree assault

This can involve a few different scenarios, including the one above, only while “under the influence of sudden passion arising from an adequate cause.” The charge can also be used when someone has injured someone with a “deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.” Recklessly causing injury – for example, by shooting a gun (even if you weren’t aiming it at someone) is also considered second-degree assault.

Third-degree assault

The law simply states that this level of assault involves “knowingly” injuring someone. If you punched someone in the face, for example, it would be assumed that your intent was to injure them. It can get you a four-year prison term and a fine of $10,000.

Fourth-degree assault

This is the least serious and includes a variety of situations. Some involve some kind of recklessness or negligence that could reasonably put another person at risk of injury or death.

It can also include actions that are intended to make someone fearful of “immediate physical injury.” For example, if you point a gun at someone and threaten to shoot them, even if you don’t, you’re causing them to reasonably fear for their life. A couple of other actions that fall under fourth-degree assault involve intentional physical contact that others would reasonably find offensive.

There are other variables. For example, an assault on a police officer is going to carry a harsher penalty than an assault on someone in a bar. Further, if someone has one or more previous assault convictions, another one is going to carry greater penalties.

You can see that assault a complex offense – and one that should never be taken lightly. If you’re facing an assault charge, it’s crucial to seek legal guidance to help you present your side of the case and to protect your rights and your future.