Assault

assault-crimesMisdemeanor Assault

In Alabama, an assault occurs when a person intentionally or recklessly causes physical injury to another person. The state differentiates between misdemeanor assaults and felony assaults—the latter are more serious. Alabama classifies
misdemeanor assault as assault in the third degree.

Assault in the Third Degree

A person commits assault in the third degree, classified as a Class A misdemeanor, in any of the four ways discussed below:

  • by intending to and causing physical injury to another person
  • by recklessly causing physical injury to a person
  • by causing, with criminal negligence, physical injury to another with a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument, or
  • by causing physical injury to another person while intending to prevent a peace officer from performing a lawful duty.

(Ala. Code § 13A-6-22)

What Constitutes “Physical Injury?”

Physical injury is an impairment of someone’s physical condition, or substantial pain. A judge or jury must often determine whether an alleged victim has suffered a physical injury based on the facts of a case. Courts have determined the following to constitute a physical injury: cuts and abrasions which bled; pain resulting from three kicks to the victim’s shin and a stomp to
the victim’s foot; a black eye resulting from a punch; shotgun pellet wounds; a “busted lip;” a “skint nose;” and a month-long headache.

 What Constitutes a “Deadly Weapon?”

A deadly weapon is a firearm or anything designed, made, or adapted for the purposes of inflicting death or serious physical injury. While not an exhaustive list, other examples of a deadly weapon include a knife, stiletto, sword, dagger, billy, black-jack, bludgeon, or metal knuckles.

 What Constitutes a “Dangerous Instrument?”

A dangerous instrument is any instrument, article or substance which, under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used, or threatened to be used, is highly capable of causing death or serious physical injury. For example, a wrench, motor vehicle, or piece of wood could constitute a dangerous instrument if used to strike another person.

What Constitutes “Criminal Negligence?”

Criminal negligence is more serious than simple negligence, or carelessness, which accompanies most accidents. A person acts with criminal negligence by failing to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk. For example, causing an automobile accident while driving five miles per hour over the speed limit might result in civil liability against the driver. On the other hand, driving considerably faster than the speed limit and causing injury to someone might result in a criminal charge.

Penalties for Assault in the Third Degree

Someone convicted of assault in the third degree can be subjected to any or all of the following penalties:

  • Incarceration. Not more than one year of hard labor for the county or imprisonment in the county jail.
  • Fines. The court can impose a fine up to $6,000. If the defendant received a pecuniary gain as a result of the crime, the court can impose a fine up to double the pecuniary gain received by the defendant, even if the amount exceeds $6,000. For example, if a defendant steals property and sells it, he has received a pecuniary gain. The Court can then impose a fine totaling twice the amount received.
  • Probation. A person on probation regularly meets with a probation officer and fulfills other terms and conditions, such as maintaining employment and attending counseling.
  • Community service. Courts often include as a part of probation the requirement that the defendant work for a specified number of hours with court-approved organizations, such as charities.

(Ala. Code § 13A-5-7)

Felony Assault

In Alabama, an assault occurs when a person intentionally or  recklessly
causes physical injury to another person. The state  differentiates between
misdemeanor assaults and felony assaults—the  latter are more serious. Alabama
classifies felony assault as either  assault in the first degree or assault in
the second degree. Each class  of felony assault has separate, but sometimes
overlapping, sentencing  alternatives.

To learn about misdemeanor assaults, see Misdemeanor Assault in Alabama.

Assault in the First Degree
A person commits assault in the first degree, classified as a Class B felony,
in any of the five ways discussed below:

    • By intending to and causing serious physical injury to another person with a
      deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.
    • By causing an injury to a person, and possessing the intent to either
      disfigure another person seriously and permanently; or destroy,  amputate, or
      permanently disable a member or organ of the person’s body.
    • By recklessly engaging in conduct that creates a grave risk of death to
      another, and the conduct also causes serious physical injury to a person under
      circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of  human life.
    • By causing serious physical injury to another while  engaging in a felony
      clearly dangerous to human life (or during flight  immediately after engaging in
      the felony), or while committing any of  the following felonies: arson or
      attempted arson in the first degree;  burglary in the first or second degree;
      escape in the first degree,  kidnapping in the first degree; rape in the first
      degree; robbery in any degree; or sodomy in the first degree.
    • By causing serious  bodily injury to another person with a motor vehicle,
      while driving  under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or a
      combination of the two.

(Ala. Code § 13A-6-20)

What Constitutes “Serious Physical Injury?”
Serious physical injury means physical injury that creates a substantial risk  of death, or that causes serious and protracted disfigurement,  protracted  impairment of health, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any
bodily organ. A judge or jury must often determine  whether an alleged victim
has suffered serious physical injury based on  the specific facts of a case. For
example, in one case, stabbing a  victim resulted in serious physical injury.
However, in another case,  shooting a victim did not result in physical injury
because the victim  did not require surgery and did not suffer long-term effects
from the  shooting.

What Constitutes a “Deadly Weapon?”
A deadly weapon is a firearm or anything designed, made, or adapted for  the
purposes of inflicting death or serious physical injury. While not  an
exhaustive list, other examples of a deadly weapon include a knife,  stiletto,
sword, dagger, billy, black-jack, bludgeon, or metal knuckles.

What Constitutes a “Dangerous Instrument?”
A dangerous instrument is any instrument, article or substance which,  under
the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used, or  threatened to
be used, is highly capable of causing death or serious  physical injury. For
example, a wrench, motor vehicle, or piece of wood  could constitute a dangerous
instrument if used to strike another  person.

Penalties for Assault in the First Degree
Someone convicted of assault in the first degree can be subjected to any or
all of the following penalties:

    • Incarceration. Imprisonment is required for not less than
      two years and not more than  twenty years. However, if the defendant used, or
      attempted to use a  firearm or deadly weapon in the commission of the felony,
      there is a  mandatory minimum of ten years of imprisonment.
    • Fines. The court can impose a fine up to $30,000. If the
      defendant received a  pecuniary gain as a result of the crime, the court can
      impose a fine up  to double the pecuniary gain received by the defendant, even
      if the  amount exceeds $30,000.
    • Probation. A person on  probation regularly meets with a
      probation officer and fulfills other  terms and conditions, such as maintaining
      employment and attending  counseling.
    • Community service. Courts often  include as a part of
      probation the requirement that the defendant work  for a specified number of
      hours with court-approved organizations, such  as charities.
  • Habitual offender. If the  defendant has a previous felony
    conviction, the law imposes increased  penalties. The length of incarceration
    increases to life, or not more  than 99 years or less than ten years. If the
    defendant used, or  attempted to use a firearm or deadly weapon in the
    commission of the  felony, there is a mandatory minimum of twenty years of
    imprisonment.  The maximum fine increases to $60,000.

Assault in the Second Degree
A person commits assault in the second degree, classified as a Class C
felony, in any of the following seven ways:

    • By intending to and causing serious physical injury to another person.
    • By intending to and causing physical injury to another person with a deadly
      weapon or dangerous instrument.
    • By recklessly causing serious physical injury to another person with a
      deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.
    • By intending to and causing physical injury to any person, while intending
      to prevent a peace officer, emergency medical personnel, a utility  worker, a
      firefighter, or a detention or correctional officer at any  municipal or county
      jail or state penitentiary from performing a lawful  duty. This includes
      off-duty employed peace officers, while wearing  their approved uniform and
      working with the approval of their employing  law enforcement agency.
    • By causing physical injury to any  person, while intending to cause physical
      injury to a teacher or an  employee of a public educational institution during,
      or resulting from,  the performance of the teacher’s or employee’s duty.
    • By causing  physical injury to any person, while intending to cause physical
      injury  to a health care worker during the course of, or as a result of, the
      performance of the duties of the health care worker. A “health care  worker”
      includes a nurse, physician, technician or other person employed by or
      practicing at a hospital; county or district health department;  long-term care
      facility; physician’s office, clinic, or outpatient  treatment facility. The
      definition does not apply to assaults by  patients impaired by medication or to
      assaults on home health care  workers while they are in private residences.
  • By intentionally  causing stupor, unconsciousness, or other physical or
    mental impairment  or injury to another person by administering to a person,
    without the  person’s consent, a drug, substance or preparation capable of
    producing  the intended harm, unless done for the purpose of lawful medical or
    therapeutic treatment.

(Ala. Code § 13A-6-20)

What Constitutes “Physical Injury”?
Physical injury is an impairment of physical condition or substantial pain. A
judge or jury must often determine whether an alleged victim has  suffered
physical injury based on the facts of a case. For example,  testimony that a
victim received a kick to the groin in one case and  that a victim had a foot
stomped on in another sufficed to prove  physical injury in both cases.

Penalties for Assault in the Second Degree
Someone convicted of assault in the second degree can be subjected to any or
all of the following penalties:

    • Incarceration. Imprisonment is required for not less than
      one year and one day, and  not more than ten years. However, if the defendant
      used or attempted to  use a firearm or deadly weapon in the commission of the
      felony, there is a mandatory minimum of ten years of imprisonment.
    • Fines. The court can impose a fine up to $15,000. If the
      defendant received a  pecuniary gain as a result of the crime, the court can
      impose a fine up  to double the pecuniary gain received by the defendant, even
      if the  amount exceeds $15,000.
    • Probation. A person on  probation regularly meets with a
      probation officer and fulfills other  terms and conditions, such as maintaining
      employment and attending  counseling.
    • Community service. Courts often  include as a part of
      probation the requirement that the defendant work  for a specified number of
      hours with court-approved organizations, such  as charities.
  • Habitual offender. If the  defendant has a previous felony
    conviction, the law imposes increased  penalties. The judge will sentence the
    defendant as if he committed  assault in the first degree. The penalties for
    assault in the first  degree are discussed above.