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Unraveling Assault Laws in New York: Battery vs. Assault Clarified

Here’s a piece of trivia that’s not so trivial: There’s actually no criminal law in New York that outlaws “battery.” But before you take that as a license to go out and deck someone, understand that you’d be committing an assault if you did so.While “battery” might mean something else in another state or in civil law, it has no relevance in New York’s penal code. Things that people would refer to as “battery,” like slapping someone, would be considered Simple Assault in New York and charged as Assault in the Third Degree, the least severe kind of assault.There are three degrees of assault, but only the third degree is a misdemeanor – and a Class A Misdemeanor at that. Assault in the Second and First degrees are Class D and B felonies, respectively, and there’s a series of felony assault charges in between that account for gang-related assaults, attacking emergency responders, attacking children, vehicular assault, and other unique situations.

Assault in the Third Degree: Class A Misdemeanor

As previously mentioned, what people might consider “battery” would probably be charged as assault in the third degree. This is a crime that occurs when someone intentionally or recklessly causes physical injury to someone else. It can occur with or without a weapon, but if one is used, the defendant must have used it with criminal negligence that caused injury.

The extent of someone’s injuries doesn’t really matter, which means even a small cut or light bruising could result in criminal liability. We previously gave slapping someone else as an example, and while some slaps can break jaws, any slap or similar type of violence can lead to Third-Degree Assault charges.

Assault in the Third Degree is a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, a defendant can face the following penalties:

  • Up to 12 months in jail
  • Probation for three years
  • Fines up to $1,000

Assault in the Second Degree: Class D Felony

Second-Degree Assault is the next most serious form of assault, often involving serious bodily injury where there is a substantial risk of death, disfigurement, or impairment of health or an organ, and where the intent was to cause such injury.

Importantly, however, Second-Degree Assault can also be alleged when the victim falls into one of many categories outlined in NY Penal Law 10.00(10). There are too many to list here, but they can be boiled down to children younger than 11, adults 65 or older, and New York public officials (police officers, EMTs, firefighters, train operators, etc.).

Assault in the Second Degree is a Class D felony. If convicted, a defendant can face the following penalties:

  • Three to seven years in prison.
  • Up to $5,000 in fines

Assault in the First Degree: Class B Felony

First-Degree Assault is the most serious type of assault charge. This is characterized by a situation in which the victim suffered physical injuries from a weapon or dangerous instrument that posed a grave risk to their life, permanently disfigured them, or resulted in the destruction or amputation of any bodily organ or limb.

As with the less serious assault charges, the intent to cause such injury matters – even if the injured individual was not the assailant’s intended victim. If the defendant intentionally sought to cause such serious bodily harm, they may be culpable for First-Degree Assault.

This charge can also be applied under circumstances where someone’s reckless conduct (such as driving a vehicle into a crowd) or commission/attempted commission of a felony results in serious physical injury to someone else.

Assault in the First Degree is a Class B felony. If convicted, a defendant can face the following penalties:

  • Three to 25 years in prison
  • Minimum of seven to 10 years if the defendant was previously convicted of another felony
  • Up to $5,000 in fines

Do You Need Legal Assistance?

If you’ve been arrested for any degree of assault or another violent crime, this is a serious legal matter that could upend your life as you know it. It’s important to rely on experienced legal counsel like our team at O’Brien & Eggleston PLLC. We have more than 25 years of combined experience when it comes to protecting our clients, and we can help you make sure the system treats you fairly.

For a free initial consultation, call us at 518-391-2369 or contact us online.

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