Assault With A Deadly Weapon Laws

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The crime of assault is complex to define, as there are many factors involved in it. Almost always, assault charges are trialed at the state level. Assault with a deadly weapon is a type of aggravated assault. This means that a person intended to inflict aggravated, severe, bodily injury to someone else. Usually, this is done by using a weapon, such as cutting instruments, knives, or firearms, although feet, fists, hands, and other similar weapons may also be used.

“Weapon” is defined as something commonly accepted as a weapon. This includes clubs, knives, and guns. It can also be a different item that is not usually classified as a weapon, however, so long as it is used in inflicting harm.

Assault With A Deadly Weapon Laws

Aggravated assault is classified under different categories, including assault with a dangerous or deadly weapon. All categories, however, indicate that the accused intended to inflict bodily injury on the victim, wanting to maim or kill, using a dangerous weapon. It should be noted that an assault with a deadly weapon charge may be filed even if the weapon was never used.

It is also quite common for courts to charge the accused not just with assault, but with assault and battery, domestic violence, disorderly conduct, or simple assaults that included a weapon. All, however, will be listed as aggravated assault. By law, if an attacker performs a physical attack accompanied by a physical object that could, because of its construction or design, inflict serious injury, including death, it is classed as an assault with a deadly weapon. In all states, this crime is charged as a felony crime.

Defining a “deadly weapon” can be somewhat more complicated. It must be demonstrated that it has the potential to inflict serious bodily harm or even death. Things, such as golf clubs or cars, can all be deadly weapons. In some states, there are “deadly weapons per se”, which include guns and knives. This means that they are always classed as a deadly weapon. This is in contrast to things such as stones, walking sticks, canes, shoes, and pocketknives, which are not deadly weapons unless used as one. Indeed, it is possible for part of the human body to become classified as a dangerous weapon. Knees, feet, arms, hand, or teeth can all become deadly weapons, as well as the genitals. Someone with HIV, for instance, could purposefully engage in unprotected sex to infect someone else.

Assault with a Deadly Weapon Crimes & Charges

If people use a deadly weapon as part of an assault, they have committed “aggravated assault”. It doesn’t matter whether any physical injury was sustained or not. Assault does not require someone to have sustained physical harm, but rather that an assailant behaved in a manner that caused victims to reasonably fear for their safety. Hence, if people threaten another individual with a deadly weapon, even if they do not use it or carry out the threat in any way, they can be charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

Assault with a Deadly Weapon Punishment

Since assault with a deadly weapon is always classified as a felony crime, it is possible for convicted individuals to be sent to state prison. How long they will stay in prison will vary, as this crime is trialed at the state level. Commonly, fines and other penalties are also imposed. How severe the sentence is will generally depend on a number of factors, including the:

  • Deadly weapon
  • Extent of the injuries inflicted
  • Level of intent
  • Mental state of the defendant
  • Criminal history of the defendant pertaining to violent crimes

Assault with a Deadly Weapon Charge

Generally speaking, it is at a judge’s discretion to determine the sentence for an assault with a deadly weapon conviction. Factors to consider include how bad the injuries were that the victim sustained, how old the victim and defendant are, the defendant’s criminal history, and how strong is the evidence put forward by the prosecution.

Under 18 U.S.C. Paragraph 351(e), assault with a deadly weapon should be sentenced under one of two categories. The first is where personal injury was sustained, and one where it wasn’t. In the first case, up to 10 years in prison as well as a fine can be imposed. If no personal injury was sustained, one year imprisonment and a fine can be imposed.

Assault with a Deadly Weapon Charge Statute of Limitations

According to federal law (see 18 USC 3282), the statute of limitations for any offense that is not classified as capital is five years.

Defenses to an Assault with a Deadly Weapon Charge

If someone is charged with assault with a deadly weapon, it does not necessarily mean that they will also be convicted. Good attorneys will be able to look at a case and determine what type of defense is the best course of action. They will search for weaknesses in the case presented, casting reasonable doubt. Some of the most common defenses include:

  • Lack of intent, as intent to cause fear in a victim is an essential element of an assault charge.
  • Self-defense, as most states allow people to defend themselves against bodily harm in a reasonable way.
  • No deadly weapon, meaning that the alleged deadly weapon is proven to be absent during the attack. This could lessen charge to simply assault. Assault charges are generally trialed as misdemeanors, or may even be dismissed.

Mainly, however, defense attorneys will do all they can to gain a lesser sentence. Often, this means convincing a judge that a lesser charge of assault, trialed as a misdemeanor, is more appropriate. Whether or not this is possible will depend entirely on the experience of the lawyers.

Assault with a Deadly Weapon Cases

  • One assault with a deadly weapon case was that of comedian Katt Williams where Katt drew a gun on a person where the alleged victim was trying to film him for a documentary. (TMZ)
  • Another case involved Raymond Aguilar and companions where the hands and feet were considered as the deadly weapon as the alleged victim received kicks and blows from the suspected assailants. (Justia)


  • Assault — 18 U.S.C. 351(e). (n.d.). Retrieved from
  • Criminal Law — Assault. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Geoffrey Nathan, Esq.

About Geoffrey Nathan, Esq.

Geoffrey G Nathan is a top federal crimes lawyer and Chief Editor of He is a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts since 1988, admitted to practice in both Federal and State courts. If you have questions about your federal case he can help by calling 877.472.5775.