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PC 245 (a)1 Assault With a Deadly Weapon

Assault charges in California are extremely serious, and depending on the circumstance associated with the case, the penalties and sentencing can vary. Aggravated assault, otherwise known as assault with a deadly weapon, requires using violence against a person or threatening to use violence against them. 

The charges associated with the crime can be more serious, depending on:

  • The person or people who were attacked
  • Whether a weapon, such as a knife, was present
  • The type of weapon that was used
  • The location where the crime took place

The California penal code provides the framework for criminal law in the state. Assault with a deadly weapon, outlined by Section 245 of the penal code, elaborates on the differing penalties of an assault charge, based on the weapon used. Penal Code 245(a)(1), in particular, outlines the sentencing laws for assault crimes involving bodily injury using a deadly weapon other than a firearm. The contents of this law dictate the future of many defendants in California. 

If you are facing prosecution for assault charges in California, it is important to be informed about the criminal defense laws that cover assault. In addition, it’s critical to work with a lawyer who can help you understand these intricate state laws so that you can take concrete steps to launch a successful defense case. 

Section 245 of the California Penal Code

Section 245 of the California penal code outlines the definition of and penalties for assault with a deadly weapon. Depending on the type of weapon involved, and whether the victim was a police officer, firefighter, or another government official, the associated penalties can range in severity. 

Section 245(a)(1) states that an individual who commits aggravated assault with a weapon other than a firearm can receive the following penalties:

  • A range of two to four years spent in state prison
  • Up to one year in county jail
  • A fine of up to $10,000 U.S. dollars
  • A combination of both fines and jail or prison time

Section 245(a)(2) states that an individual who commits aggravated assault with a firearm can receive similar penalties to a person who commits aggravated assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm. The only difference is that there is a minimum sentence for time spent in county jail of 6 months. 

If the firearm used in the aggravated assault case is more capable of delivering lethal force, for example, by delivering more rounds in a small amount of time, then the associated penalties are more serious. An example of such a firearm would be a machine gun or a .50 BMG rifle. This offense, outlined under Section 245(a)(3), is punishable by four, eight, or twelve years in state prison. 

During aggravated assault cases, great amounts of force can be used that are either intended to harm or kill the victim. Section 245(a)(4) outlines that any assault that takes place, including force to produce severe bodily injury, can be punished using the same penalty sentencing guidelines as charges classified under Section 245(a)(1).

The penalties for an aggravated assault case that involved a semiautomatic firearm, which are defined in Section 245(b), are more severe than for those charges outlined in Section 245(a). An individual who carries out an assault using a semiautomatic can spend three to nine years in state prison. 

Aggravated Assault Against a Police Officer or Firefighter

If the victim of an aggravated assault case was a police officer or firefighter who was on duty, and the defendant was aware of their status and that they were currently engaged in their duties, then the associated penalties would increase. 

Section 245(c) outlines that an individual who carries out aggravated assault with a weapon other than a firearm faces time in prison. They can receive a sentence of anywhere from three to five years in state prison. If the aggravated assault is carried out with a firearm, then under Penal Code Section 245(d)(1), the defendant will face time in prison ranging from four to eight years. 

Section 245(d)(2) establishes that an individual who carries out aggravated assault against a police officer or firefighter using a semiautomatic firearm will face five, seven, or nine years in state prison. Furthermore, Section 245(d)(3) states that a person who commits aggravated assault against a police officer or firefighter using a machinegun, or other specified weapon, can receive six, nine, or twelve years in prison. 

Examples and Illustrations: Penal Code 245(a)(1)

California Penal Code 245(a)(1) defines aggravated assault that takes place with the use of a deadly weapon that is not a firearm. It also details the associated penalties. To more clearly understand this section of the penal code, the following examples are provided, which Section 245(a)(1) would apply to: 

  • Assault committed using a knife. A person uses physical force or verbal or visible threats using a knife, and the victim was scared with reason to believe that they would experience harm or bodily injury.
  • Assault through the use of a baseball bat. An individual launches themselves at somebody while swinging around a club or baseball bat, trying to inflict bodily injury, or making the victim fear that they face immediate harm. 
  • Assault using a motor vehicle. A person operates a motor vehicle, such as a car, and attempts to hit or run over a victim, instilling immediate fear in them. 
  • Assault through the use of a broken bottle. A customer at a bar gets into a fight and uses a broken bottle to try to hit the victim in a way that causes them bodily harm. 
  • Assault with brass knuckles. Even if there is no bodily harm that results from an attempt to inflict harm on someone by using brass knuckles, it is classified as assault with a deadly weapon.
  • Assault committed using a blunt instrument. When someone successfully hits or tries to hit someone with a heavy object, such as a hammer, this is considered to be a type of assault with a deadly weapon.

In addition to the situations mentioned above, there are conditions that need to be met for a crime to be considered assault with a deadly weapon under Penal Code Section 245(a)(1). For example, the defendant must have had the physical capability of actually following through with the assault crime, and the victim must have known about the imminent threat. 

If you have been charged with assault with a deadly weapon, it’s important to have experienced legal counsel who has worked with cases similar to yours. They can provide you with information about your rights as well as legal advice for the next steps that you should take to build a strong defense. 

Is Penal Code Section 245(a)(1) a Felony or Misdemeanor?

Charges under Penal Code Section 245(a)(1), which refer to an assault with a deadly weapon, can be classified as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the extent of harm done to the victim or the severity of the intentions to cause bodily harm. Assault with a deadly weapon, or aggravated assault, is considered to be a wobbler law since it can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony. 

The prosecution may charge a PC 245(a)(1) as a felony if the injuries or intent are particularly severe or if very reckless or dangerous conduct was involved. Through felony charges, the defendant is likely to face more time in prison and greater fines. Additionally, if the defendant is convicted of the felony offense, they will have this on their criminal record, which can affect their housing, education, and employment options and opportunities in the long run.

Is PC 245(a)(1) a Strike?

California has a “Three Strikes Law,” which enhances the sentencing of certain crimes, known as “violent felonies,” based on whether the defendant has a criminal history of committing such crimes. If an individual has been convicted one time before of a “violent felony,” and they are facing new charges for a “violent felony,” they can face double the standard charges associated with the crime. If this is their third offense committing a “violent felony,” they can face up to life in prison, with no opportunity to pursue alternative sentencing.

Because Penal Code 245(a)(1) requires the use of violence with the aid of a deadly weapon, it is classified in California as a “violent felony,” and therefore it is considered a strike toward the three strikes law. 

What Is a 245 Penal Code Misdemeanor?

Crimes classified under PC 245(a)(1) can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies by the prosecution. The prosecution may decide to charge a PC 245(a)(1)-type crime as a misdemeanor if:

  • The weapon used is less lethal.
  • The injuries suffered by the victim are less serious.
  • The defendant has not committed many previous offenses.
  • There were not many aggravating circumstances associated with the crime.

If the charge is considered to be a misdemeanor, the penalties are likely to be less severe, including shorter periods of imprisonment, smaller fines, and alternative sentencing, such as probation or community service. 

What Is the Statute of Limitations for PC 245(a)(1)?

Under California Penal Code Section 801, the statute of limitations is described to be three years from the date that the crime was committed. This means that the plaintiff has a period of three years after the crime to press charges against the accused or file a civil claim against them. 

If you are unsure about whether your case meets the statute of limitations, it’s important to speak with a lawyer about the imposed time limits. 

Related Offenses to Aggravated Assault With a Deadly Weapon

There are a number of crimes that can overlap with or be related to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. It’s important to be aware of such crimes so that you can understand whether your case might be prosecuted as one or multiple crimes. It’s also important to know whether your case has the potential to be reclassified as a crime with less serious charges. 

Assault on a Public Official

Assault on a public official is defined under Penal Code Section 217.1. A crime is considered to be an assault on a public official if an individual carries out the assault:

  • Against a person who is a public official
  • As a result of anger towards their work in office
  • As a means to prevent them from performing their public duties

Even if a deadly weapon was not used, the individual is still charged with this crime. 

Brandishing a Weapon or Firearm

The crime of brandishing a weapon or firearm is defined under California Penal Code Section 417. An individual can be charged with the crime of brandishing a weapon or firearm if they took out or showed off a weapon or firearm or if they got in a fight and used a weapon or firearm during it. For this crime to be convicted, there does not need to be assault evidence. 

Other similar crimes include simple battery, which is defined under Penal Code Section 242, simple assault, as described under Penal Code Section 240, and battery which causes serious injury, which is detailed in Penal Code Section 243(d).

Failure to Control a Dangerous Animal

Failing to control an animal that is dangerous is considered a crime under Penal Code Section 399. Someone is considered to have committed this crime when a dangerous animal is purposefully let free to roam. It also applies if there is no regular care in trying to keep up with the animal and someone gets hurt or dies as a consequence. 

Assault with a deadly weapon can be carried out by a person with an animal if the animal in question is able to attack when it is demanded to and the person gave the command. 

Federal vs. California Assault Crimes

Assault crimes can be charged under California state law or federal law. While there are commonalities between the two definitions, assault crime laws on the state and federal levels have fundamental differences.

Crimes that are prosecuted as federal assault crimes include the following:

  • Assault against federal property. If an individual destroys, breaks, or defaces federal property, such as national parks or federal banks, this is considered to be a federal offense.
  • Assault with a dangerous weapon. When a person carries out a crime of assault using a specifically dangerous weapon, such as a gun, on property that is considered to be federal, then this is prosecuted as a federal offense.
  • Assault against federal officers. If a person assaults a federal officer, such as an FBI agent, DEA agent, or another federal agent while they are carrying out their jobs, it would be a federal offense.
  • Assault carried out to try to commit a felony. When an individual assaults someone or something with the intention of committing another federal felony, then this crime is charged as a federal felony. 
  • Assault that results in serious bodily injury. If a person assaults someone and it leads to severe injuries, or injuries that put their life at risk, then this can be charged as a federal offense. 

The following assault crimes are prosecuted in California according to state law: 

  • Simple assault crimes. Simple assault includes trying to hurt someone and having the capacity to actually inflict harm. For simple assault to be prosecuted, there only needs to be intent from the defendant to commit physical harm; the physical harm itself does not have to be present. 
  • Aggravated assault. Assault that is carried out by using a deadly weapon or that leads to severe physical harm is considered to be aggravated assault. This is more serious than simple assault. 
  • Assault carried out with a firearm. In California, this type of assault is different from aggravated assault and has different penalties. For this crime to be prosecuted, a person must commit an assault with a firearm.
  • Assault carried out to try to commit a felony. This crime is comparable to the federal offense of carrying out an assault while trying to commit another felony offense. 
  • Assault against specific people. In California, there are certain assault crimes that are considered more aggravated if people such as firefighters, public servants or police officers are victims of the assault. 

The penalties for assault crimes in both federal and state jurisdictions can vary based on 

  • How serious the crime committed was
  • If a weapon was present
  • The type of weapon that was present
  • The victim involved
  • The location where the crime happened

If you are facing California state or federal assault charges, it is important to work with legal representation who can help you understand your charges and what your options are. The earlier you can get in contact with a lawyer, the better your chances are of building up a strong defense. 

Aggravated Assault Causes

Assault can be caused by many different factors in California, and it’s important to understand what the common causes are to prevent assault crimes from happening. 

Drugs and alcohol, when consumed by an individual, can increase their risk of carrying out violent crimes, such as aggravated assault. This is because consuming drugs and alcohol can lower a person’s inhibitions, causing them to think less clearly and engage in aggressive or reckless behavior. 

The presence of weapons can also escalate a situation to the point where aggravated assault is committed. For example, if the people involved in a verbal conflict have weapons, such as knives or firearms, on them, they may be more tempted to use them in a fight. 

If there is a high level of conflict in an existing domestic situation, then this can escalate into a physical altercation and lead to an aggravated assault case. In any setting where there is high tension, and therefore a potential for argument or conflict, there is a greater risk of aggravated assault.  

Aggravated Assault Defense Strategies

Aggravated assault is a serious charge, with consequences that can impact the rest of an individual’s life. Therefore, it’s important to put forward a strong defense that can either help get the penalties associated with the crime minimized or try to get all the charges dropped. 

Based on the criminal case in question, the defense strategies deployed may vary. However, in general, the following tactics are useful to stage a strong defense in and out of court: 

  • Showing that the identity of the defendant was mistaken. In many aggravated assault cases, the wrong person can be accused. If the defendant can prove that the person who committed the crime was not them, then they can get the charges against them dropped. 
  • Claiming that the crime was not committed on purpose. If the defendant can show that the crime that they are accused of committing was done by accident, then they may be able to get their charges reduced or dropped. 
  • Arguing that there is not enough evidence to lead to a conviction. In aggravated assault cases, there must be enough evidence to prove that the accused person committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. If there is not a strong case to convict the accused, then the charges can be reduced or dropped. 
  • Presenting a strong alibi. An alibi is an account that describes when and where the defendant was at the time that the alleged crime was committed. If they can prove that they were not present, then their charges can be dropped.
  • Showing that their rights were violated. If the defendant can show that their rights were violated during their arrest and prosecution, or that the police obtained evidence against them using illegal means, then evidence may need to be suppressed or even charges dismissed.
  • Using character witnesses. In court, a tool that can be deployed to speak to the good character of a defendant is the testimony of character witnesses. These witnesses may explain instances and stories that attest to the kind and peaceful disposition of the defendant, softening up the argument that they could have committed a violent crime.
  • Claiming that the defendant’s mental state was not adequate. If the defense can show that the defendant was mentally unwell at the time the assault crime was committed, then they might not be charged as completely responsible for the damages as a result. 
  • Showing that the defendant was provoked or forced to do the crime. In some instances, a person can be provoked into committing a crime. They may even be forced through fear of their life or immediate danger to themselves to commit the crime. If this can be proven, then aggravated assault charges may be reduced. 
  • Proving that the defendant committed the assault out of necessity to defend themselves or someone else. If a person can show that they were in immediate danger, and that they acted to protect themselves or someone else, this can lead to charges getting dropped or reduced. 
  • Showing that there was not sufficient intent for the defendant to have committed the crime. If the defense can demonstrate that the defendant had no reason or motive to harm the victim, this can sway the case in favor of the defendant. 
  • Proving that the person couldn’t have committed the assault crime. In some cases, the crime that a person is accused of committing does not match up to their capabilities. For example, if an individual has a neuromuscular disorder, such as late-stage Parkinson’s disease, then it is not likely that they would be able to commit an assault crime involving great amounts of force. 

It’s important to reiterate that the legal defense strategies that might work well for one case could break another similar case. Therefore, it’s important to have a conscientious assault lawyer who can closely analyze and break down a case to understand what the most effective defense strategies might be. If you committed the offense, your attorney may be able to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecution before your case goes to trial, which can net you a lighter sentence and possibly avoid jail time.

In addition to this, it’s important to have an experienced defense lawyer who can counsel you in the post-conviction phase so that you can get your sentence reduced. A skilled defense attorney can use even the smallest details of your case to sway the sentencing in your favor.

California Assault Lawyers Who Can Defend Your Case

Being charged with assault can be stressful and overwhelming and, depending on the seriousness of the charges, the penalties can be significant. The potential to face time in jail, large fines, and a criminal record can be crippling for the mental and physical well-being of some individuals. Therefore, it’s crucial to have a strong California defense lawyer who knows the ins and outs of the legal system as well as the details of criminal law. 

At Power Trial Lawyers, our team of defense lawyers can fight tirelessly for you to find a defense that can get your case optimized. Whether you have been charged with simple assault, assault with a firearm, assault with a deadly weapon, or even federal assault crimes, our legal team is here to assist you and come up with a plan. To schedule a consultation and start working on your assault defense strategy, get in contact with one of our defense lawyers today

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