Connecticut classifies assault by degree, depending on the accused’s intent, the seriousness of the injury, the means used to inflict the injury, and the seriousness of the risks created by the accused. Assault in the first degree (the most serious) and assault in the second degree are felonies, while assault in the third degree is a misdemeanor.
To learn about assault in the first degree, see Assault in the First Degree in Connecticut.
To learn about assault in the second degree, see Assault in the Second Degree in Connecticut.
Assault in the Third Degree
A person commits assault in the third degree, classified as a Class A misdemeanor, in any of the three ways discussed below:
- by intending to cause physical injury to a person and causing such injury to the person, or to a third person
- by recklessly causing serious physical injury to a person, or
- by causing, with criminal negligence, physical injury to another person with a deadly weapon, a dangerous instrument, or an electronic defense weapon.
(Conn. Gen. St. Ann. § 53a-61)
What Distinguishes Intentional, Reckless and Criminally Negligent Conduct?
Intentional behavior occurs when a person acts with the conscious desire to cause a result or to engage in specific conduct. For example, aiming a gun at a person and pulling the trigger constitutes an intentional act.
A person acts “recklessly” by acting with a conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a result will occur or that a circumstance exists. The risk must be of such that disregarding it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation. For example, firing bullets through a wall into an occupied apartment constitutes recklessness.
A person acts with “criminal negligence” by failing to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a result will occur or that a circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation. For example, driving a car while intoxicated and speeding around a curve and crossing the center line constitutes criminal negligence.
What Constitutes “Serious Physical Injury”?
Serious physical injury means either:
- physical injury that creates a substantial risk of death, or
- physical injury that causes serious disfigurement, serious impairment of health, or serious loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.
What Constitutes a “Deadly Weapon?”
A deadly weapon is any weapon, whether loaded or unloaded, from which a shot may be discharged, or a switchblade knife, gravity knife, billy, blackjack, bludgeon, or metal knuckles.
What Constitutes a “Dangerous Instrument?”
A dangerous instrument means any instrument, article or substance that, under the circumstances in which it is used or attempted or threatened to be used, is capable of causing death or serious physical injury. The definition includes any “vehicle,” as that term is defined by statute. A dog that has been commanded to attack also constitutes a dangerous instrument, unless the dog is owned by a law enforcement agency and the dog is in the performance of its duties under the direct supervision, care and control of an assigned law enforcement officer.
What Is An “Electronic Defense Weapon?”
An electronic defense weapon operates by electronic impulse or current and is capable of immobilizing a person temporarily, but is not capable of inflicting death or serious physical injury. The definition includes stun guns (Tasers) or other conductive energy devices.
For more information on stun guns, see States Requiring A Stun Gun Permit.
Penalties for Assault in the Third Degree
Someone convicted of assault in the third degree can be subjected to any or all of the following penalties:
- Incarceration. Imprisonment is permitted for not more than one year. If the defendant causes injury with a deadly weapon, a dangerous instrument, or an electronic defense weapon, the judge cannot reduce or suspend the term of imprisonment to less than one year.
- Fines. The court can impose a fine up to $2,000.
- Probation. A person on probation regularly meets with a probation officer and fulfills other terms and conditions, such as maintaining employment and attending counseling.
- Community service. Courts often include as a part of probation the requirement that the defendant work for a specified number of hours with court-approved organizations, such as charities.
See a Lawyer
If you are facing a charge of assault in the third degree, consider consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney who regularly practices in your area. A lawyer can evaluate the strength of the prosecution’s case against you and help develop any defenses that might apply to your case.
A lawyer’s skillful negotiation with the prosecutor can sometimes result in a reduction of charges or a reduction in penalties, such as less prison time, no prison time, probation, and lower fines. A local criminal defense attorney, who knows how the prosecutors and judges involved in your case typically handle such cases, can assist with these negotiations. Finally, if you decide to go to trial, having a good lawyer on your side will be essential.