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First Degree Assault in Maryland

Maryland has several different assault statutes, which range from misdemeanors to felonies. These statutes cover a wide variety of conduct. This article looks at the most serious of these offenses, assault in the first degree, and the possible penalties for a conviction.

Elements of First Degree Assault in Maryland

First-degree assault is defined as intentionally causing, or attempting to cause, serious physical injury to another person. Any assault committed with a firearm is also considered a first-degree assault. The definition of firearm is very broad. It covers handguns, antique firearms, rifles (including short-barreled rifles), shotguns (including short-barreled shotguns), assault pistols, machine guns, and any other regulated firearm. A person who commits first-degree assault has committed a felony and may be sentenced to up to 25 years’ imprisonment. (Maryland Criminal Code, Section 3-202) In the eyes of the law, an individual who attempts to commit assault and fails is viewed with the same level of culpability as if he or she had successfully committed the crime. That means that an attempted first-degree assault is also punishable by up to 25 years’ imprisonment. (Maryland Criminal Code, Section 1-201)

What Does the Law Mean by Firearm?

A “handgun” is defined to include any firearm that can be concealed upon a person. (Maryland Criminal Code, Section 4-201) The definitions of rifle and shotgun are similarly broad. The intent of the legislature is to show no tolerance for anyone who uses any sort of firearm to commit assault upon another person. It is also important to note that firearms are not the only type of weapon that can bring a first-degree assault conviction. Even simple weapons, such as a knife or a bat, can bring this type of charge if they are used in an effort to harm another individual.

The Element of Intent

The crime of first degree assault does include an intent element. What that means is that it would not be enough to prove only that a person did cause serious physical injury to another. The District Attorney must also prove that he or she intended to do so. The law will presume that a person intended the natural consequences of his or her actions. The District Attorney need only prove that the defendant intended to act in the manner that he or she did, and that the injury resulted. The prosecution does not need to show any sort of malice or ill-will toward the victim, or that the defendant wished to cause the specific injury that occurred. Despite this, an experienced defense attorney can try to mitigate the evidence and establish reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury as to whether the defendant really intended to do what he or she did. He can work to minimize of the impact of any evidence of intent submitted by the District Attorney.

What are the Penalties for First-Degree Assault?

Because first degree assault is a crime of violence, there is a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment for a second offense. For a third offense, the mandatory minimum sentence is 25 years’ imprisonment. By the time a person is convicted for the fourth time, he or she will be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (Maryland Criminal Code, Section 14-101) The judge has no discretion to suspend or choose not to impose these sentences – they are required by the statute.


Maryland law does not allow a person to seal or expunge a conviction of a felony. Many people believe that a conviction can drop of their records, in the same way that a traffic ticket only carries points for a few years after the violation. Unfortunately for them, that is not the law. A criminal conviction remains on a person’s record for the rest of his or her life. In Maryland, charges can only be deleted from a person’s record in very specific circumstances, and a first-degree felony assault conviction can never be removed. (Maryland Code of Criminal Procedure, Section 10-105) Therefore, it is important to have an experienced lawyer who can work with you from the outset to achieve the best possible legal outcome.

If you have been charged with first degree assault in Maryland, contact a Maryland criminal defense lawyer today for a free consultation to discuss your options.

First Degree Assault in Maryland