Second-Degree Assault in Maryland
Maryland has several different assault statutes that range from misdemeanors to felonies. These statutes cover a wide variety of conduct. An assault is defined as intentional touching that causes physical injury to the victim, and it encompasses both assault and battery. (Maryland Criminal Code, Section 3-201) First-degree assault is defined as intentionally causing, or attempting to cause, serious physical injury to another person, or an assault committed using a firearm. (Maryland Criminal Code, Section 3-202) All other assaults fall within the category of assault of the second degree. Essentially, that means that a second-degree assault occurs any time that a harmful touching occurs, excluding situations involving death, permanent or protracted injury, disfigurement, or loss or impairment of any body part or organ. (Maryland Criminal Code, Section 3-201) This definition is very broad. It could be applied to any sort of harmful or offensive touching or touching that a person knows would be unwelcome to the recipient.
While assault in the second degree is not punished as harshly as assault in the first degree, it is still considered a serious offense. Usually, assault in the second degree is charged as a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 10 years of imprisonment, a fine of up to $2,500, or both. If the victim of the assault is a law enforcement officer, parole officer, or probation officer acting within the scope of his official duties, the crime is charged as a felony. In such a case, the fines are increased to up to $5,000 and a defendant still could be sentenced to up to 10 years’ imprisonment. (Maryland Criminal Code, Section 3-203)
Assault requires an intentional touching. The statute is satisfied if a person begins an action or course of action that he knows is likely to lead to injury. It is not relevant if the exact touching that occurs is not the one that was intended. For example, if you intend to punch someone in the jaw and he ducks, getting hit in the eye instead, that is still grounds for an assault charge. The intent does not need to be to cause the specific injury that resulted from the contact.
The law allows a person to assert any recognized defense in his case. (Maryland Criminal Code, Section 3-209) One of the most common defenses in assault cases is self-defense. If a person reasonably believes that he is in eminent danger of physical harm, he has a right to use reasonable force to stop the other person from harming him. The force used must be proportional, however – for example, if someone pushes you, you cannot pull out a gun and shoot him. But if someone attacks you, you can use reasonable force to subdue him without being convicted of assault. Another common defense is defense of others. In any situation where a third party is being threatened, and he would be permitted by law to defend himself, you have a legal right to step in to prevent him from being harmed. Again, the force used in such an instance must be reasonable and proportional. In addition, the victim and the defendant can submit a joint request to the court, asking the judge to dismiss the charges. The judge will allow the dismissal if he believes that it is “proper,” although the defendant will still have to pay his court costs. (Maryland Criminal Code, Section 3-207)
In some cases, if a person is willing to plead guilty, he might be able to get the charges reduced. For example, the attorney could try to negotiate with the district attorney to get the second-degree assault charge dropped and to plead instead to reckless endangerment, which is a lesser offense. An experienced defense attorney can help you negotiate the best possible deal for your case.
If you have been charged with second-degree assault in Maryland, contact a Maryland criminal defense lawyer today at (301) 684-8088 for a free consultation to discuss your situation.