Assault exists in both civil and criminal law. Civil assault is committed when one person intentionally — that is, acts for the purpose of or substantial certainty — puts another person in imminent apprehension of harmful or offensive contact. Do note that generally under civil law contact is not require. As with all strands of civil law, a civil lawsuit based on assault is initiated between private persons.
Criminal assault is when the assault is particularly grievous — and usually does indeed cause contact. In Missouri, criminal assault is split into three categories. A person commits the crime of assault in the first degree if he attempts to kill or knowingly causes or attempts to cause serious physical injury to another person. Assault in the first degree is a class B felony unless in the course thereof the actor inflicts serious physical injury on the victim in which case it is a class A felony. Second degree criminal assault is much more common. It involves “sudden passion” that results in assault or gross recklessness. It is a Class C Felony.
Third degree criminal assault is the most benign type of criminal assault. Because it is the most common type charged, I’ll spell out the statute specifically:
A person commits the crime of assault in the third degree if:
(1) The person attempts to cause or recklessly causes physical injury to another person; or (2) With criminal negligence the person causes physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon; or (3) The person purposely places another person in apprehension of immediate physical injury; or (4) The person recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death or serious physical injury to another person; or (5) The person knowingly causes physical contact with another person knowing the other person will regard the contact as offensive or provocative; or (6) The person knowingly causes physical contact with an incapacitated person, as defined in section 475.010, which a reasonable person, who is not incapacitated, would consider offensive or provocative.
Given the serious consequences of a criminal conviction, and the collateral legal consequences of a Suspended Imposition of Sentence (“SIS”), it’s important to evaluate all legal options when charged with criminal assault.