August 31, 2022 | Kentucky Law
The phrase “assault and battery” is used so often that most people fail to understand the difference between the two. Although the word “battery” is meaningful in Kentucky civil law, there is actually no such crime as battery under Kentucky criminal law. Assault, however, is a crime in Kentucky.
A generation ago, the aggressor in a bar fight would probably face charges of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. Now, such an aggressor is highly likely to face charges of felony assault. Following is an explanation of the crime of assault.
What Is Assault?
Assault occurs when one person, acting intentionally, recklessly, or wantonly, injures (or, in some cases, attempts to injure) another person. The act must lack legal justification to constitute assault.
Degrees of Assault
Kentucky recognizes four degrees of assault. First-degree, second-degree, and third-degree assault are all felonies. Fourth-degree assault is usually a misdemeanor. These charges break down as follows:
- First-degree assault: Intentionally causing serious injury with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument or seriously injuring someone by acting wantonly in a manner that causes a grave risk of death. The penalty range includes 10 to 20 years in prison.
- Second-degree assault: You commit second-degree assault by intentionally inflicting a serious physical injury on someone. You commit this crime by intentionally causing a physical injury with a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument. Another way to commit this crime is to wantonly cause serious bodily harm using a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. The penalty range includes 5 to 10 years in prison.
- Third-degree assault: Intentionally (or recklessly with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument) injuring certain public servants such as peace officers, emergency medical technicians, and parole officers. The penalty range includes 1 to 5 years in prison.
- Fourth-degree assault: Intentionally or wantonly causing physical injury or recklessly causing bodily injury using a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument. You won’t necessarily go to jail, but this charge does still carry the possibility of up to a year..
These four degrees of assault offer opportunities for plea bargaining from a higher degree of assault to a lower degree.
What Is “Wantonly”?
Under Kentucky criminal law, “wantonly” means either:
- Intentionally disregarding a known serious risk; or
- Due to voluntarily intoxication, unintentionally creating a serious risk of harm (a DUI accident, for example).
“Wanton” behavior is similar to “gross negligence” under Kentucky personal injury law.
What Is “Recklessly”?
Under Kentucky criminal law, “recklessly” means unintentionally disregarding a serious risk of harm.
What Is a “Serious Physical Injury”?
“Serious physical injury” means an injury that creates a serious risk of death or causes long-term disability, long-term health problems, or long-term disfigurement.
What Is a “Deadly Weapon or Dangerous Instrument”?
A deadly weapon is a weapon that can easily cause death, even accidentally. Examples include guns, knives, billy clubs, and brass knuckles. A “dangerous instrument” is something that, even if not designed as a weapon, can easily cause death or serious injury. Even a fist counts as a dangerous instrument if it causes death or serious injury.
What Is “Legal Justification”?
Legal justification is an affirmative defense, such as self-defense or defense of others. Unlike the case with ordinary criminal defenses, the burden of proof is on you, the defendant, to prove your defense.
You don’t have to prove your justification “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but only by a “preponderance of the evidence.” A preponderance of the evidence simply means enough evidence to outweigh the evidence presented by the other side, even if only slightly.
Contact the Louisville Criminal Defense Attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC For Help Today
If you are facing assault charges, you need to move quickly to hire a seasoned criminal defense lawyer. You need to balance two opposing objectives—to secure legal representation as quickly as possible and to hire the best criminal defense attorney to represent you. Start looking for a lawyer immediately.