Westchester County Assault Lawyer
Some of the most common criminal charges in New York’s criminal courts involve some sort of assault. Yet despite this, assault is one of the most misunderstood allegations in criminal law.Many people do not realize they do not need to actually make physical contact with another person in order to be charged with assault; an attempt is enough. Nevertheless, most defenses to assault involve the argument that there was no intent to injure or that the actions were taken in self-defense.
Westchester County assault lawyers can work with individuals to understand the truth behind the incident and to formulate a defense to fit their goals and needs. If someone has been charged with assault, they should work with a skilled criminal defense attorney and know that they are in capable hands.
How New York Defines Assault
The basic definition of assault is provided in New York Penal Law §120.00. Known as assault in the third-degree, this statute states that a person can be charged with assault in one of three ways:
- A person causes physical injury to another person when they have the intent to do so
- A person recklessly causes injury to another person
- A person causes injury through criminal negligence and the use of a dangerous instrument or weapon
Therefore, a person may be charged with assault even if they did not intend to cause harm. By including such levels of intent such as recklessness and negligence, New York has criminalized the act of causing harm by mistake, if a reasonable person would not have acted that way.
Assault in the third-degree is a Class A misdemeanor. This means that a conviction can result in up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. A Westchester assault lawyer could attempt to mitigate the penalties that an individual may face.
Aggravating Factors in Assault Cases
Assault becomes much more serious with the addition of aggravating factors. Prominent examples of these include:
- Assault in the second-degree New York Penal Law §120.05. As assault that results in serious physical injury is done with the use of a deadly weapon or is committed against a public servant in the line of duty. Conviction here is a Class D felony
- Gang assault in the second-degree New York Penal Law §120.06. It is a Class C felony to commit an assault with the aid of two or more people that results in serious injury.
- Assault in the first-degree New York Penal Law §120.10. The most serious assaults involve attacking a person with the intent to cause serious injury with a deadly weapon
Alternatively, this attack may result in the loss of bodily function or amputation of a limb. These allegations are treated as a Class B felony
Of course, the mere attempt to perform the attack is sufficient to convict under these definitions. New York’s criminal law is dedicated to the idea that an attempt to commit a crime is just as serious a violation of the law as if the crime was completed. It is, therefore, no defense to argue that no contact was actually made.
What are the Available Defenses in an Assault Case?
The right defense is crucial in any assault case. One of the most common ways to contest an assault allegation is by claiming self-defense. This could be an effective defense even if the state is able to prove all other elements of the crime. A defendant may use force that would otherwise qualify as an assault to protect themselves or others from imminent physical harm.
Another common defense is claiming that it was a mistake or accident. Assault requires an element of intent, meaning that an accidental injury cannot qualify under the statute. For example, if a person swings their arm and strikes another person that they did not realize was present, they lack the intent necessary for an assault conviction.
Can the Alleged Victim Drop an Assault Charge?
It is a common misconception that the alleged victim in an assault case has the power to unilaterally drop the charges. The reality is that once allegations are reported to the police, the reporting witness loses all control over the charges. Although the power to dismiss charges lies with the prosecution, they will typically take the complaining witness’ refusal to testify or cooperate into account when deciding whether to drop charges.
Can the Prosecutor Reduce an Assault Case?
The prosecution has significant leeway on how to pursue an assault allegation. One of the options available to the prosecution involves reducing the assault charges. For felony assault charges, the state might agree to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. This could dramatically decrease the criminal penalties a defendant faces. The prosecution could also agree to reduce a misdemeanor assault charge to a lesser, non-violent offense. An experienced assault attorney could make all the difference in what specific charges are brought against an accused Westchester County resident.
How a Westchester County Assault Attorney Can Help
Being charged with assault is never a simple matter. The defense needs to examine not just the physical acts that took place, but also the participants’ mental mindset during the encounter.An effective defense can be to argue that the defendant did not intend to cause any harm to the injured person. A defendant may also argue that they were acting to protect themselves against an aggressor.
Westchester County assault attorneys could work to examine every case for all possible defenses. Attorneys approach each case and form a strategy that fit its specific needs, and those of the accused. A conviction can result in serious jail time, stiff fines, and a criminal record. Don’t let this happen without putting up a fight. Contact an experienced Westchester County assault lawyer today.