Third degree assault charges are the lightest charges of assault in New York, but that by no means makes them minor. There are serious consequences that can come with a guilty conviction, and they can follow you for the rest of your life. If you find yourself facing third degree assault charges, you should take them seriously and get a criminal defense lawyer to help you mount a defense.
Third Degree Assault
Third degree assault is the lowest level of assault charges in New York. Unlike the first and second degree charges, which are both felonies, third-degree assault is a misdemeanor. There are three ways in which a person could be charged with third degree assault:
- They recklessly cause physical injury to another person
- They intentionally cause physical injury to another person
- They use a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument through criminal negligence to cause physical injury to another person
The severity of the injury plays a vital role in determining the degree of assault with which a person is charged. If the physical injury is likely to have more permanent effects, it may be considered “severe physical injury” and elevate the charges to second degree. If the effects are more transitory, the case will likely remain third degree. However, a third degree misdemeanor doesn’t directly translate to a minor charge. There are still consequential punishments that can come with a third degree assault conviction.
Third Degree Assault Punishment
Third degree assault carries a few different legal punishments, but it’s important to recognize that the consequences may extend beyond the legal orders. A conviction results in a criminal record that can affect everything from seeking employment to any future criminal proceedings. The legal consequence, also, while not as significant as felony charges, can have a significant impact on the defendant’s life. They include:
- Jail time of up to one year – this is more likely if there is any prior criminal history
- Probation – third degree assault has a mandatory sentence of three years probation
- Fines – a fine of up to $1,000 may be ordered
- Restitution – the court may order up to $15,000 in restitution paid to the victim
- Orders of protection
- Criminal record
Defending Against Third Degree Assault
Defense against third degree assault can rely on a few different strategies. An assault defense lawyer can work with the particulars of a case to figure out an optimal strategy of defense. Some common strategies include:
- Self-Defense – If it can be shown that the defendant had reason to believe that they or someone else were in imminent physical danger, then they have a right to use a reasonable level of force to protect themselves. However, this defense is not allowed in circumstances where there is a conflict that the defendant started.
- Mistaken Identity – If the assault involved a conflict with several parties involved, and no clear footage of the assault exists, it’s possible to argue that the perpetrator has been misidentified. It may also be possible to make such an argument if the assault occurred at a time when visibility was poor and there is a possibility that another individual could have been present, like in a public space.
- Lack of Injury – The charge requires that the victim sustained a physical injury. A lack of evidence of an injury can be grounds for a ‘not guilty’ verdict. A person claiming pain is not enough to be considered evidence of injury. There must be other evidence that aligns with the claim.
Q: Is Third Degree Assault a Felony in New York?
A: While first and second degree assault in New York are both felonies, third degree assault is not. Third degree assault is a class A misdemeanor that carries with it a maximum sentence of one year in jail. It does, though, mean that the convicted will have a criminal record that appears on background checks. This may harm everything from employment to college admissions to seeking to enter certain careers.
Q: What Would Make an Assault Second Degree Instead of Third?
A: Third degree assault involves causing physical injury to another person through intent or recklessness or causing physical injury with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument through criminal negligence. There are a variety of instances that elevate assault to the second degree based on who the victims were, the severity of the injuries, and the intentional involvement of a weapon. Generally, assault rises to the second degree when it involves “serious physical injury” or intentionally using a deadly weapon to cause physical injury.
Q: How Long Can You Go to Jail for Third Degree Assault?
A: You could go to jail for up to one year with a third degree assault conviction. Jail time is more likely if you have a prior criminal history. While a judge may waive jail time, there is a mandatory probation sentence of three years for third degree assault. You could also be ordered to pay a fine of up to $1,000 and pay restitution of up to $15,000. There also may be orders of protection granted that last from two to eight years.
Q: How Can You Defend Against Third Degree Assault Charges?
A: There could be a number of ways of defending against the assault charges. The important thing to remember is that the prosecution needs to prove to the jury guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Some common third degree assault charge defense strategies include:
- -A lack of physical injury
- -Mistaken identity
Don’t Downplay the Seriousness of Third Degree Assault Charges
While not as serious as the felonious second and first degree assault charges, third degree assault is no small matter. A guilty conviction carries consequences that can be highly disruptive to your life, even if there is no jail time involved. Importantly, having a criminal record can also negatively impact many areas of life, including any potential future criminal matters. A quality defense is essential to avoiding the problems that come with a guilty conviction on third degree assault charges. At the Law Offices of Robert Tsigler, PLLC, we have the experience and knowledge that can help you mount a strong defense against the prosecution. Contact us today to get the legal help you need.