Experienced Maryland Assault Lawyer
In the State of Maryland, Assault Is a Serious Offense
The law defines an assault as intentionally causing or attempting to cause a substantial risk of serious physical injury or death to another person. In addition, “physical injury” is defined as “any impairment of physical condition, excluding minor injuries.”
The Maryland Criminal Code breaks assault down into First Degree (felony) and Second Degree (misdemeanor). There are separate charges for assault on a police officer, law enforcement officer, or probation or parole officer.
If you have been arrested and charged with assault, pleading guilty is not an option. You would benefit from an experienced Maryland assault lawyer who knows how to navigate the criminal justice system and get the best possible outcome for your case. If you plead guilty, you could be facing jail time, a fine, or both.
What is First Degree Assault in Maryland?
There are generally two types of assault charges in Maryland. Maryland Criminal Code Section 3-202 defines felony assault as First Degree Assault. First Degree Assault carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in jail.
Maryland First Degree Assault carries more severe incidents like a firearm being used to commission a crime. Whenever a deadly weapon is used in the allegations, the State will almost always charge First Degree Assault.
To convict someone of First Degree Assault, the State must prove an assault occurred with a firearm or the accused intended to cause a serious bodily injury. To constitute “serious bodily injury,” the assault must present a reasonable risk of death or an actual serious injury.
When charged with First Degree Assault, it’s essential to consult with an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer. Because of the severe nature of this charge, a typical assault charge for a first degree can involve substantial jail time. The punishment can be worse for someone who has priors if it’s a second or great offense.
What is Second Degree Assault in Maryland?
The definition of Second Degree Assault can be found in Maryland Criminal Code Section 3-203. It is a misdemeanor. However, Second Degree Assault charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and/or a $2,500.00 fine.
It’s important to note that, unlike most states, the Maryland Criminal Code permits misdemeanors to have a maximum penalty of more than one year in prison.
The crime of assault on a police officer, parole, or probation officer similarly carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail. Still, the maximum fine is increased to $5,000.00, and assault under these circumstances is a felony.
Under the Maryland Criminal Code, any unwanted physical contact can constitute an assault even where the complaining witness does not sustain an injury. In fact, an assault can occur with no actual physical contact.
For example, you could swat a coffee cup out of someone’s hand, technically constituting an assault under Maryland criminal laws. Spitting on someone similarly constitutes assault in the second degree.
Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer, Parole or Probation Agent
Once an individual is arrested for DUI in Maryland, the law enforcement officers will confiscate their driver’s license and issue a temporary license for 45 days.
After that time elapses, MVA will suspend the driver’s license for 45 days for a first offense and 90 days for a second offense or if the driver refuses the breath test. The officers must also provide the driver with a form DR-15 outlining the terms of the suspension and the need to request a hearing.
The driver must request a hearing within ten days of the arrest to get an extension document that keeps the driver’s license valid until the MVA hearing.
At the MVA hearing, the driver can request the administrative law judge modify the suspension period. For example, if the driver can show the suspension causes a work hardship, the judge may modify the suspension to permit the individual to drive to and from work.
If the driver refuses the breath test, the judge cannot shorten or modify the suspension unless the driver agrees to install an ignition interlock device. The purpose of the interlock device is to make sure the driver does not operate their vehicle after consuming alcohol. The driver must pay the cost of the interlock device.
Is Diversion Available for Assault?
In most criminal cases, the only two options are to take the case to trial or reach a plea deal with the Assistant State’s Attorney. In some cases where the allegations are less severe, a third option may sometimes exist called diversion.
Diversion typically involves jumping through some hoops by performing community service, taking classes, or paying fines to get your charges dismissed. In Maryland, diversion is not a likely option for First Degree Assault.
However, it may be available in some Second Degree Assault cases where no injury occurs and it’s the defendant’s first offense. This can involve performing community service in exchange for dismissal or placing the case on the stet docket.
Placing a case on the stet docket makes it inactive while the person completes some special conditions like anger management classes. Where the defendant completes diversion, there will be no jail time for the offense at sentencing because the defendant does not get sentenced.
Factors That Can Increase or Reduce the Severity of an Assault Charged
Several factors determine the penalties for assault in Maryland. These include the severity of the injury, whether a weapon was used, and whether the victim was a police officer or other protected individual like a school teacher.
Severity of Injury
The most significant factor in any assault case is typically the severity of the injury. If the victim suffers serious physical harm like a broken bone, loss of consciousness, or concussion, the charge will likely be First Degree Assault.
If the victim only suffers minor injuries that do not require medical attention or result in any physical disability, the charge will likely be Second Degree Assault.
Use of a Weapon
The use of a weapon can also increase the severity of an assault charge. If a gun, knife, or any other dangerous weapon is used, the charge will likely be First Degree Assault.
This is true even if the victim does not suffer any bodily harm due to the weapon. Simply brandishing a weapon during an assault (reckless endangerment) can be enough to trigger First Degree Assault charges.
Potential Defenses Against Assault Charges
Several defenses can be raised in an assault case. The most common is self-defense, but there are others that may apply depending on the specific facts and circumstances.
One of the most common defenses to assault charges is self-defense. This defense applies when the defendant reasonably believes they are in imminent danger of harm and uses force to protect themselves.
The force used in self-defense must be reasonably proportionate to the perceived threat. This means that a person cannot use more force than necessary to defend themselves.
For example, if someone is being punched and they respond by pulling out a gun and shooting their attacker, they would not be able to use self-defense as a defense.
In some cases, consent can be used as a defense to assault. This usually occurs in sports or other activities where there is an inherent risk of injury.
For example, if two people get into a fistfight, they would not be able to claim that the other person consented to be punched. However, consent would likely be a valid defense if two people engage in a boxing match.
The consent defense is typically only available when the victim suffers relatively minor injuries. If the victim is seriously injured or killed, consent is not likely to be a valid defense.
Hiring a Maryland Assault Attorney
Because of the severe nature of these charges, it’s crucial to hire a qualified and experienced Maryland assault lawyer who can investigate the charges, negotiate with the prosecutor, and fight to enforce your constitutional rights.
An experienced attorney can challenge the government’s evidence and ultimately try the case and force the government to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
When hiring a criminal defense lawyer, there are specific things to look for to ensure you get the best representation possible. First off, hiring a criminal defense attorney can be as substantial a purchase as buying a car in some instances.
It’s essential to find someone you are comfortable with who has experience in the courthouse where the prosecutor files your charges. This person will help you make what could be one of the most consequential decisions of your life.
Accordingly, finding a criminal defense lawyer in Maryland who will be honest with you is significant. In addition, because the potential consequences are so severe, you want someone who will be committed to your case throughout the process.
Lastly, each case is different, so finding a lawyer who will take a creative approach to problem-solving is also key to finding the right lawyer.
If you or a friend or loved one has been arrested and charged with a Maryland assault conviction, contact Attorney Morgan Leigh immediately for a full case evaluation. Ms. Leigh has successfully defended individuals charged in Maryland in courts in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and beyond.
She is a dedicated advocate who is not afraid to fight to protect your rights. Remember, an arrest is not the same thing as a conviction. If you have been arrested, hiring a dedicated Maryland assault lawyer who understands how the criminal justice system works can make all the difference in the case.