Defining Assault in Legal Terms
There’s a lot of confusion with the word ‘assault’ among non-lawyers. It’s amplified by the constant connection in the media to the terms ‘sexual’ and ‘…and battery.’ Here, Denver assault attorney Christopher T. Braddock gets down to the nitty-gritty.
‘Assault’ in legal terms — at least, the State of Colorado’s legal terms — comes in three degrees, each of which have their precise definitions (which we’ll cover in Part II), and ‘presumptive’ (or base) sentences.
The crime of assault allows the ‘modifier’ of “in the heat of passion,” which weakens the sentences and side effects. The “heat of passion” is used to indicate in the sentencing that you were provoked into committing the assault, or more specifically that the assault was the result of an immediate emotional impulse and not something premeditated or planned.
Specifically Assault in the Third Degree has another special legal term attached: it is an Extraordinary Risk Crime,” part of a select set of crimes that has a greater punishment attached to it than other crimes of the same approximate nature.
Terminology That Matters
In Part II, you’ll see that some of the definitions of Assault use the term “bodily injury,” and others
specify “serious bodily injury.” The difference between “bodily injury” and “serious bodily injury” is that a bodily injury is literally any pain or any physical or mental impairment inflicted on another person, no matter how minor — ‘serious’ bodily injury involves a substantial risk of death,
permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss of function of any body part. So if you slap someone and it hurts, that’s bodily injury. If you scratch them and it keeps them from comfortably flexing their wrist, that’s bodily injury under both the ‘pain’ and the ‘physical impairment’ rubrics.
The Presumptive Sentences
Each class of crime has a set of presumptive sentences — for example, a Class 5 Felony comes with a presumptive sentence of 1-3 years in jail and a $1000-$10,000 fine. A judge may choose an
amount of jail time and a fine that ranges from the minimum presumptive sentence all the way up to twice the maximum presumptive sentence — though circumstances have to be pretty extreme
for a judge to go above the normal presumptive maximum.