In California, Assault with a Deadly Weapon is defined as an assault that is committed with any type of weapon deemed deadly or by means of force that is likely to cause significant bodily injury to another. Deadly weapons include firearms, knives of a certain length, swords, explosives, and brass knuckles, to name a few. A deadly weapon is an object that is designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of inflicting death or serious physical injury.
Assault with a Deadly Weapon is typically charged as a felony. However, depending on the circumstances the prosecution can decide to charge it as a misdemeanor. Crimes that can go either direction like this are referred to as “wobblers”. When determining whether the case will be tried as a felony or misdemeanor, three important facts will be considered:
- The type of weapon that was allegedly used in the offense.
- Whether or not the alleged victim sustained injuries, and if so, how severe the injuries were.
- The nature of the victim, meaning, was the alleged victim an officer, firefighter or other protected person.
In order to be convicted of Assault with a Deadly Weapon the prosecution has to prove that the defendant assaulted another and that it was committed with a deadly weapon, or other means of force meant to cause serious bodily injury.
What is a Deadly Weapon?
At the beginning of this article we outlined some examples of deadly weapons, primarily the obvious examples such as guns and knives. However, everyday common objects or instruments can qualify when used in ways that can inflict severe injury on another. California’s Penal Code 245(a)(1) defines a deadly weapon as:
“an object, instrument, or weapon that is capable of producing and likely to produce death or great bodily injury.”
Hands and feet are not considered “deadly weapons”, as the definition is limited to objects that are not part of one’s body. Daily objects such as beer bottles, sharp pencils, rocks, steel-toed boots, and your vehicle can also be defined as deadly weapons if they are used in a threatening way.
As mentioned, California law does not qualify hands, feet, and other body parts as deadly weapons, however, due to the “any means of force likely to produce great bodily injury” clause, attacks using biting, punching or hitting, scratching, choking, or kicking in a manner that is likely to cause substantial harm, you may face Assault with a Deadly Weapon charges.
What is Great Bodily Injury?
When we think of great bodily injury we typically think of brain damage or paralysis. However, broken bones, dog bites, teeth damage, black eyes, and cuts requiring stitches can all qualify as great bodily injury. Great bodily injury is typically determined on a case-by-case basis and the factors of the case will be used to determine whether or not it qualifies. It is important to know, however, that prosecutors can charge you with using force that is likely to cause great bodily injury even if your alleged act did not result in great bodily injury.
Defending Assault with a Deadly Weapon Charges
An experienced criminal defense attorney will be familiar with the defense options available to the defendant. A criminal attorney will look at:
- Defense of another
- Lack of intent
- Insufficient evidence
- Police misconduct
It can be easy to be wrongfully accused and arrested for Assault with a Deadly Weapon, primarily because there is no requirement that the alleged victim sustain an injury in connection with the charge. For this reason, if you have questions or concerns relating to an ADW case you should not hesitate to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately to discuss the details of your case.