A battery is typically described as an offensive or harmful touching; an assault occurs when someone tries to commit a battery using threats. However, the exact definition of "assault and battery" is determined by state law. Some states treat this as one offense; other states have two distinct crimes. In Washington, the assault charges cover both threat of force and actual use of force crimes. Therefore, if you commit these offenses, you'll be subject to assault charges (even if a "battery" occurred).
Washington Assault Laws: An Overview
When analyzing the law, it's critical to read the actual language of the relevant statutes. However, the statutes that apply can get quite lengthy and are often written in legal jargon. That's why it can be useful to read an abridged version, written in plain English. The chart below contains such a summary of Washington's assault laws.
Washington Revised Code:
First degree assault: With the intent to inflict great bodily harm, the actor:
- Assaults with a firearm, other deadly weapon, or by any force likely to cause great bodily harm or death; or
- Exposes/transmits another to poison, the HIV virus, or another destructive substance; or
- Inflicts great bodily harm.
Penalty: Class A felony, punishable by 93-123 months incarceration and fines up to $50,000.
Second degree assault: Assault under circumstances not amounting to assault in the first degree including:
- Assaults accompanied with intent to inflict substantial bodily harm; or
- Intentionally causing substantial bodily harm to an unborn child by injuring the mother; or
- Striking with deadly weapons or with intent to commit a felony; or
- Exposing or transmitting someone to poison, HIV virus, or another destructive substance; or
- Strangulation or suffocation;
- Inflicts bodily harm which is considered torturous
Penalty: Class B felony, punishable by 3-12 months incarceration, $20,000 fines unless there's a finding of sexual motivation which upgrades this to a Class A felony.
Third degree assault: Occurs if actor causes bodily harm with criminal negligence or assaults the following victims:
- Fire fighters
- Law enforcement officers
- Bus drivers (transit and school)
- School bus driver or public transportation
- Judicial officers and court employees
- Nurses, physicians, or other health providers
Penalty: 1-43 months incarceration, $10,000 fine.
Fourth degree assault: Any assault not severe enough to make it into the other categories. Penalty: Up to 90 days in jail.
- Defense of self /others
- Accidental contact
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Washington Assault and Battery Laws: Related Resources
Questions about Assault and Battery Laws? Talk to a Washington Attorney
The laws in Washington that define assault cover a lot and even include battery-type offenses. If you're facing prosecution, you really need to understand the charges against you so that you can adequately defend yourself. Act now to get help that only an experienced criminal defense attorney can provide.