Under Missouri law, the most serious assault crimes are assault in the first degree and assault in the second degree. Both of these crimes are felonies. For more information on first degree assault, see Assault in the First Degree in Missouri.
A person is guilty of assault in the second degree in Missouri if he:
- attempts to kill another person or causes or attempts to cause serious physical injury to another person while “under the influence of sudden passion arising out of adequate cause”
- attempts to cause or knowingly causes physical injury to another with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument
- recklessly causes serious physical injury to another
- while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, operates a motor vehicle with criminal negligence and causes physical injury to another
- recklessly causes physical injury to another by discharge of a firearm, or
- causes physical injury to an emergency vehicle operator by operating a motor vehicle in a criminally negligent manner and in violation of traffics laws relating to emergency vehicles.
Assault in the second degree is Class C felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and a fine up to $5,000, or both.
(Mo.Stat. Ann. §565.060).
Under the Influence of Sudden Passion
If a person attempts to kill someone or intentionally causes or attempts to cause serious injury to another person, he can be guilty of second degree assault instead of first degree assault (a more serious crime involving intent to kill or cause serious physical injury) if he was acting “under the influence of sudden passion arising out of adequate cause.” (Mo.Stat. Ann. §565.060.) The defendant must prove that he was in such a heightened emotional state -- provoked by someone else -- that his actions were being directed by passion rather than reason. He must also show that this was a sudden, unexpected event that caused terror, rage, or some other emotion that was out of control. For example. if the defendant was suddenly confronted by another person who does something extreme that frightens or outrages the defendant and he acts from a state of overwhelming emotion, this could constitute “acting out of sudden passion.”
A reckless act is one that is committed, not necessarily with intent to harm another, but without regard for the outcome. Pushing someone out of the way in a crowd near a tall ledge so that you can get through, without intending to injure the person, could be an assault in the second degree if the person falls and is seriously injured. Shooting a gun into a crowd and causing minor injury to a person also could be assault in the second degree because of the reckless behavior with a firearm.
A criminally negligent act is one which is not intentional but which occurs because the actor fails to exercise reasonable care. If a driver is intoxicated and drives the wrong way on a street or fails to stop and strikes another vehicle, he is considered under Missouri law to be operating the vehicle in a criminally negligent manner.
Physical Injury and Serious Physical Injury
Serious physical injury is more serious than a cut, scrape or bruise. It involves profound injury like a broken bone, disfigurement, loss of a limb, a serious head injury, or an injury that requires surgery and/or hospitalization.
Physical injury refers to minor injury to the human body, including scrapes and bruises.
Deadly Weapon or Dangerous Instrument
A deadly weapon is an object which by definition can cause death or serious physical injury.Examples include firearms, large hunting knives, or brass knuckles. A dangerous instrument is an object which may not normally be a weapon but which is used in a manner that can cause death or serious physical injury. A rope used to strangle someone, a metal pipe used to strike someone and a vehicle used to intentionally strike a pedestrian are all dangerous instruments because of the manner in which they were used.
Assault in the Second Degree Against Certain Victims
A person is guilty of the crime of assault in the second degree against a law enforcement officer, corrections officer, emergency personnel (such as a firefighter, emergency room personnel or emergency medical technician), highway worker, or probation and parole officer if he:
- knowingly causes or attempts to cause physical injury to the victim by means of a deadly weapon or other dangerous instrument
- recklessly causes physical injury to the victim
- while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, operates a motor vehicle with criminal negligence and causes physical injury to the victim
- acts with criminal negligence and causes physical injury to the victim by means of a deadly weapon
- purposely threatens the victim with immediate serious physical injury, or
- acting with criminal negligence, creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to the victim.
If a person knowingly causes or attempts to cause physical injury by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument to any of these victims, except a highway worker, he also will be guilty of assault in the second degree.
This assault crime is a Class B or C felony depending on the action that constitutes the assault. Under certain circumstances, prison is a mandatory sentence for this crime.
Domestic Assault in the Second Degree
Assault in the second degree committed against a spouse, a family member, someone with whom the offender resides or previously resided, or someone with whom the offender is involved in a romantic or intimate dating relationship is a domestic assault in the second degree. This crime is defined differently than ordinary assault in the second degree and the penalties can be higher under certain circumstances. For information about the crime of domestic violence in Missouri, see Criminal Domestic Violence Laws in Missouri.
A person convicted of assault in the second degree in Missouri can be required to pay restitution, which involves reimbursing the victim for any expenses resulting from the crime, such as the cost of medical treatment or counseling or repair or replacement of damaged property.
Suspended Sentence and Probation
A court in Missouri can suspend a sentence in either of two ways:
- suspend imposition of sentence with or without probation, or
- impose a jail sentence and then suspend the jail sentence and place the defendant on probation.
If the court suspends imposition of sentence, the court, in essence, postpones sentencing for a period of time. The court can dismiss the charges at the end of the period if the defendant complies with any conditions set by the court such as probation, having no new arrests or criminal offenses, participating in psychological treatment, or doing volunteer work in the community. If the defendant is put on probation in these circumstances, it is known in Missouri as SIS probation (suspended imposition of sentence). This is an unlikely outcome in a case involving a felony as serious as assault in the second degree. However, SIS probation may be possible if there is no mandatory minimum prison sentence, if the defendant has no criminal history, and the case involves truly extenuating circumstances.
If the court suspends execution of sentence, the court imposes a jail sentence but allows the defendant to serve all or a portion of the time on probation rather than in jail. This type of probation is known as SES probation in Missouri (suspended execution of sentence).
The Value of Good Representation
A conviction for assault in the second degree becomes part of your permanent criminal record. A conviction for a violent felony can hurt you when you are looking for a job or applying to rent a house or apartment. An experienced attorney can determine whether you have any grounds for dismissal of the charges against you, explore plea options, and represent you at trial. Only someone familiar with the local criminal court system and cases like yours will know what plea options are available, how good your chances are for a favorable outcome, and what you can expect at sentencing. A knowledgeable attorney will assist you in making decisions about your case and protect your rights.