Assault with a deadly weapon charge in California can result in serious penalties that could ruin your life. Given the seriousness of the assault with deadly weapon penalties under California PEN 245, you should consult an attorney who is committed to providing you with the best possible defense. We at the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney have successfully and consistently defended clients facing assault with deadly weapon charges in Los Angeles and we can help you too. Please contact us right away if you require legal counsel.

An Overview of California Assault With A Deadly Weapon Charges

Assault with a deadly weapon is filed when someone assaults another individual using a lethal weapon or any other weapon besides a firearm. It could also happen when the defendant assaulted someone else with a force that was likely to lead to serious bodily harm.

The sentencing and punishment for assault with a deadly weapon vary depending on whether it is a felony or a misdemeanor. The prosecution will take into account several things when making this decision, including the kind of weapon that was used, the severity of the injuries sustained by the victim, if any, as well as how the act of assault was carried out. Whether the crime is filed as a misdemeanor or a felony will affect the sentence and penalty if found guilty.

Elements of Assault with a Deadly Weapon

The following must be proven beyond a shadow of  a doubt for the prosecutors to successfully prove that you are committed assault with a deadly weapon act:

  • You engaged in behavior that would inevitably lead to the use of force against another person
  • You committed the crime with a lethal weapon or other means that may have caused serious bodily harm
  • You deliberately/wilfully perpetrated the crime
  • When you perpetrated the crime, you understood, or ought to have realized, that it could result in the use of force against someone else
  • You were able to use force by using a lethal weapon/a weapon that could have caused serious bodily harm when you perpetrated the act

Application of Force According to Penal Code 245(a)(i)

The use of force in an assault with a deadly weapon charge does not have to result in any type of injury. Also, the victim does not have to be specifically targeted.  The only thing that's needed is that the defendant knowingly perpetrated a crime that would almost certainly result in using force against another person.

For instance, you may still face charges for assault with a deadly weapon if you threw a knife at someone but missed. Knives are deadly weapons, and you used one in a way that you ought to have understood or should've known for sure would cause your target serious physical harm. It doesn't matter if your target managed to avoid the throw and sustained no injuries.

A Deadly Weapon

Any tool that has the potential to cause significant bodily harm or death in its nature is considered a lethal weapon. Knives and weapons are two obvious examples. However, anything could be considered a deadly weapon if it is used in a way that will likely result in significant physical harm.

Unloaded firearms, a butter knife, as well as an automobile, are all less conspicuous examples of lethal weapons. These items may qualify as dangerous weapons under the provisions of the law when they are utilized in a manner that's likely to lead to the use of lethal force/force that's likely to cause harm. Keep in mind that neither hands nor feet or other body parts are necessarily lethal weapons. However, using one's hands or feet in a way that is likely to cause significant physical harm to someone else qualifies as an assault with a deadly weapon.

Great Bodily Injury

Serious bodily harm is a general term that judges and the prosecution are free to interpret however they see fit. However, it is typically a serious or major physical injury rather than merely a mild injury. Let’s say that you're a pro boxer, then during a bar fight, you utilize your fists to hit somebody. You can be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. This is due to the possibility that assuming your degree of boxing skills, you might have employed your fists in a way that could have seriously injured your victim.

Willful Act under Penal Code 245(a)(i)

According to Penal Code 245(a)(i), you committed the conduct willingly if you had the intent to do so. The willful factor under PEN 245(a)(i), does not necessitate breaking the laws or inflicting harm on another person. You have fulfilled this requirement of this criminal code if you had the intent to carry out the specific act that was likely to result in serious bodily harm.

For instance, it doesn't matter if you didn't plan on hitting someone when you chase them down in your vehicle in a way that will certainly cause them to sustain serious injuries. You fulfilled the willfulness requirement under the criminal code if you planned to operate your car in a way that you understood or should have known would probably cause serious harm to the other person.

Being Aware that the Act Could Result In the Use of Force

As previously stated, you didn't have to plan on using force against the victim. You should have planned to employ force that could have caused significant bodily harm and should have understood that it would.

For instance, if you utilized an unloaded firearm in a way that was highly probable to result in death or serious bodily harm, it's difficult to establish that you were unaware that your actions would cause lethal force or serious physical injuries to your victim.

Penalties for Assault with a Deadly Weapon

Based on the specifics of the purported crime as well as your past criminal history, assault with a deadly weapon wobbler offense, which implies it could be tried as either a felony or a criminal.

The prosecution takes into account elements like the sort of object used if the act injured the victim, as well as the extent of those injuries when determining whether to pursue the purported infringement as a misdemeanor or a felony.

The prosecutor may also consider the victim's identity. For instance, the crime would be prosecuted as a felony offense and stiffer penalties could be imposed if the victim was a protected individual or peace officer.

Penalties for Assault With a Deadly Weapon Using a Firearm

Penalties are more severe if you're accused of using a firearm to perpetrate the offense. If the weapon was a common weapon, the crime will be pursued as a wobbler, which means it might result in a misdemeanor or felony charge. But you'll have to serve at least 6 months in jail.

If you used a semi-automatic firearm, you face a sentence of three, six, or nine years in jail. You could face a four, eight, or twelve-year prison sentence if the firearm was an assault weapon or a machine gun. The underlying specifics of the crime as well as your criminal history will determine the extent of the sentencing the prosecutors will pursue against you.

Penalties for Assault With a Deadly Weapon Using a Vehicle

If you purportedly used a vehicle as a deadly weapon, you could be accused of a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the facts of the matter as well as your criminal background.

The judge and the DMV could impose a lifelong driving restriction on you when you have been charged with a felony. The judge will not restrict your rights to operate your vehicle if you have been convicted of a misdemeanor. However, the DMV could suspend your driving permit or place other restrictions on it at its discretion.

Penalties For a Deadly Weapon Upon a Firefighter, a Police Officer, or Other Protected Persons

If the purported victim was a firefighter, a police officer, or a protected person acting in the course of their duties when the alleged attack occurred, and you were aware that they were, you could be charged with a crime and sentenced to three, four, or five years behind bars in prison. When a standard firearm was allegedly employed in the conduct of the felony, you risk facing a prison sentence of four, six, or eight years. You may receive a sentence of five, seven, or nine years in prison if the weapon was semi-automatic. You also risk serving a jail sentence of six, nine, or twelve more years if the weapon used was an assault rifle or machine gun.

Is Assault With a Deadly Weapon a Strike Under California’s Three-Strikes Statutes?

If you have been accused of inflicting "severe bodily harm" against someone else, if you used a firearm in the perpetration of the offense, or when the purported assault using a lethal weapon was perpetrated against a peace officer, you could face felony strike charges. Any additional felony crime you perpetrate after receiving a strike increases your prison sentence by two years.

If you are found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon in California, your firearm or handgun will be confiscated. If you've proven to be the proprietor of the firearm employed during the crime and you're found guilty, the judge will make a ruling declaring the weapon to be a nuisance. It indicates that the firearm will be seized and may be destroyed or even sold at an auction.

Probation Terms Associated With An Assault With A Deadly Weapon Sentence

If you are put on probationary terms, the court can set particular conditions that are related to the conduct for which you have been found guilty. These probationary conditions could include:

  • You should not violate other laws (apart from traffic infractions)
  • You should see your probation officer regularly as the probation terms dictate
  • Take part in community service
  • Compensate the plaintiff by making restitution
  • prohibition on having or using a lethal weapon

The above are only some of the probationary conditions that a judge could impose. The court could extend your sentencing to the highest term permitted by law when you're found to have violated any of these conditions.

Defenses to Assault With a Deadly Weapon Charges

Below are some legal defenses your defense attorney could use to contest the allegations against you:

You Didn't Use a Deadly Weapon

According to this statute, an offender is only found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon. It is therefore a defensive strategy for the accused person to demonstrate that:

  • Regardless of whether he or she perpetrated the assault
  • He or she didn't utilize a lethal weapon while doing so

An accused person can bolster this argument by emphasizing specific details that demonstrate the object they were holding was not lethal. What qualifies as a lethal weapon is up for debate.

For instance, the defendant hurled a balloon toward the target. You cannot be found guilty of assault using a deadly weapon when you utilized the balloon in a way that couldn't have caused serious physical injury. The prosecution might then consent to drop your felony assault charges to simple assault charges.

You Did Not Employ Force Likely to Result in Great Bodily Harm

It is also up for debate what constitutes "force likely to induce serious physical harm." For instance, it could be argued that you didn't employ force probably to result in serious bodily injury when you brandished your knife in a way that couldn't have rationally inflicted injuries on another person.

You Acted in Self-Defense or to Defend Others

If you purportedly employed a lethal weapon to prevent physical injury upon yourself or someone else, and when the force you employed was rationally reasonable to prevent that assault, you have a legitimate defense for the assault with a deadly weapon charge.

You Did Not have the Intent to Commit the Act

If you didn't plan on using the lethal weapon to assault the victim, and you did not have any intention to commit the offense.

You Were Falsely Accused

Several reasons could lead somebody to falsely accuse another person.  For reasons like these, your lawyer should carefully assess the history as well other reasons the purported victim could have for filing.

Related Offenses

The offenses listed below are regarded as "related" offenses since they're often charged under California Penal Code 245(a)(i) and/or share components that the prosecution must establish beyond a shadow of a doubt. These related offenses include:

Simple Assault

It is against the law to try to "inflict a serious injury" against someone else, according to California's assault law, California Penal Code 240. The victim does not need to be touched as part of the assault offense, and the prosecutor is not required to show that any contact took place.

Nevertheless, a Simple Assault could be committed with just a little bit of touching, such as touching somebody through their clothing. Contact could also happen indirectly.

A misdemeanor conviction for breaching California Penal Code 240 could result in the following penalties:

  • A maximum sentence of six months in jail
  • Fines amounting to $1,000
  • both fines and incarceration

The prosecution doesn't need to show that you meant to harm someone. However, "if somebody was harmed, the jurors could take that into account alongside with the rest of the findings, in assessing whether you perpetrated an assault." However, voluntary intoxication can not be used as a defense.

Battery Causing Serious Harm

When battery leads to substantial physical harm, such as concussions, broken bones, or serious ugliness, it is considered battery inflicting serious damage, under California Penal Code 243(d).  Once the assault has been perpetrated, an Assault with a Deadly Weapon act could turn into Battery Causing Serious.

If you are found guilty of battery resulting in severe injury, you could be subject to:

  • An imprisonment sentence of two, three, or four years in prison
  • Fines amounting to $1,000
  • Both fines and incarceration

The act of battery could be committed by simply touching someone through their clothing. It is also possible to touch another person or by using an object without directly touching them.

Simple Battery

In California, anyone who deliberately and illegally employs force against someone else is guilty of simple battery under Penal Code 242. When something is done deliberately or purposely, it is said to be done "willfully."

To act "deliberately," one need not plan to breach the law, do harm to another person, or profit from their actions. Assault With A Deadly Weapon and Battery are connected because Assault usually ends in Battery.

If you are found guilty of simple battery, you could be sentenced to:

  • Six months or more in jail
  • Fines amounting to $1,000
  • Both fines and incarceration

If executed in an unpleasant or hostile manner, even a gentle touch could constitute a battery. It's not necessary for the touching to inflict any injuries.

Brandishing a Firearm or Weapon

A person violates California Penal Code417(a)(i),(ii) when they display a firearm or any other lethal weapon in front of someone else without a justifiable reason, such as self-defense.

This offense is comparable to an Assault With A Deadly Weapon charge since both acts could involve the employment of a lethal firearm or weapon.

If you are found guilty of brandishing a firearm or weapon, which is often a misdemeanor, you could be sentenced to:

  • One year or more in jail
  • Fines amounting to $1,000
  • Both fines and incarceration

The weapon should be shown in a "hostile, aggressive, or menacing manner" or utilized during a physical altercation. The gun doesn't need to be loaded when you are charged with brandishing one.

Assault With Caustic Chemicals

According to California's Penal Code 244, someone who "purposefully and maliciously throws or places, or causes any corrosive acid, vitriol, caustic chemical, or flammable substance, of any form, to injure the flesh, skin, or disfiguring someone else's body" is guilty of committing assault using caustic chemicals.

According to the law, flammable substances include fuel, petroleum products, and flammable liquids which have a flashpoint of no more than 150°F. The felony is comparable to Assault With A Deadly Weapon since caustic substances are inherently harmful and can cause severe bodily harm.

If found guilty of felony assault using caustic substances, you could face the following penalties:

  • A sentence of four years or more in a California state prison
  • Fines amounting to $10,000
  • Both fines and prison terms

When someone willfully commits a crime or behaves with the malicious goal of disturbing, defrauding, annoying, or injuring another person, they are engaging in malicious behavior.

Can I Be Accused of Assault With a Deadly Weapon Even If I Didn't Possess a Weapon?

Even though you didn't employ a weapon while committing the act, you could still be accused of assault with a deadly weapon when you did have the chance to utilize force that was likely to result in severe bodily harm. Because of the potential severity of the harm, kicking or punching somebody in a sensitive area, like in the neck or head, could lead to charges of assault with a deadly weapon.

Can an Assault With a Deadly Weapon Charge Under Penal Code 245 Be Lowered to a Lesser Charge?

A skilled criminal defense lawyer could be able to have your aggravated assault charges lowered to simple assault charges. This charge attracts a shorter prison sentence and lower fines. Your lawyer might even be able to get the charge completely dropped when the evidence that is provided in court is presented to favor your case.

Find an Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Using a deadly weapon in an assault is a serious offense in California. If you've been accused of an assault with a deadly weapon charge, you should hire a knowledgeable, committed criminal defense lawyer as quickly as possible.

Our attorneys at the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney have a thorough comprehension of the state criminal court system as well as the local Los Angeles courts. If you have been detained or accused of assault with a deadly weapon offense, our lawyers will review the evidence and devise strong defense strategies to assist in getting the best possible result. Call us today at 424-333-0943.