Felony Assault in Alabama

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In Alabama, an assault occurs when a person intentionally or recklessly causes physical injury to another person. The state differentiates between misdemeanor assaults and felony assaults—the latter are more serious. Alabama classifies felony assault as either assault in the first degree or assault in the second degree. Each class of felony assault has separate, but sometimes overlapping, sentencing alternatives.

To learn about misdemeanor assaults, see Misdemeanor Assault in Alabama.

Assault in the First Degree

A person commits assault in the first degree, classified as a Class B felony, in any of the five ways discussed below:

  • By intending to and causing serious physical injury to another person with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.
  • By causing an injury to a person, and possessing the intent to either disfigure another person seriously and permanently; or destroy, amputate, or permanently disable a member or organ of the person’s body.
  • By recklessly engaging in conduct that creates a grave risk of death to another, and the conduct also causes serious physical injury to a person under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.
  • By causing serious physical injury to another while engaging in a felony clearly dangerous to human life (or during flight immediately after engaging in the felony), or while committing any of the following felonies: arson or attempted arson in the first degree; burglary in the first or second degree; escape in the first degree, kidnapping in the first degree; rape in the first degree; robbery in any degree; or sodomy in the first degree.
  • By causing serious bodily injury to another person with a motor vehicle, while driving under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or a combination of the two.

(Ala. Code § 13A-6-20)

What Constitutes “Serious Physical Injury?"

Serious physical injury means physical injury that creates a substantial risk of death, or that causes serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ. A judge or jury must often determine whether an alleged victim has suffered serious physical injury based on the specific facts of a case. For example, in one case, stabbing a victim resulted in serious physical injury. However, in another case, shooting a victim did not result in physical injury because the victim did not require surgery and did not suffer long-term effects from the shooting.

What Constitutes a “Deadly Weapon?”

A deadly weapon is a firearm or anything designed, made, or adapted for the purposes of inflicting death or serious physical injury. While not an exhaustive list, other examples of a deadly weapon include a knife, stiletto, sword, dagger, billy, black-jack, bludgeon, or metal knuckles.

What Constitutes a “Dangerous Instrument?”

A dangerous instrument is any instrument, article or substance which, under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used, or threatened to be used, is highly capable of causing death or serious physical injury. For example, a wrench, motor vehicle, or piece of wood could constitute a dangerous instrument if used to strike another person.

Penalties for Assault in the First Degree

Someone convicted of assault in the first degree can be subjected to any or all of the following penalties:

  • Incarceration. Imprisonment is required for not less than two years and not more than twenty years. However, if the defendant used, or attempted to use a firearm or deadly weapon in the commission of the felony, there is a mandatory minimum of ten years of imprisonment.
  • Fines. The court can impose a fine up to $30,000. If the defendant received a pecuniary gain as a result of the crime, the court can impose a fine up to double the pecuniary gain received by the defendant, even if the amount exceeds $30,000.
  • 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.
  • Habitual offender. If the defendant has a previous felony conviction, the law imposes increased penalties. The length of incarceration increases to life, or not more than 99 years or less than ten years. If the defendant used, or attempted to use a firearm or deadly weapon in the commission of the felony, there is a mandatory minimum of twenty years of imprisonment. The maximum fine increases to $60,000.

Assault in the Second Degree

A person commits assault in the second degree, classified as a Class C felony, in any of the following seven ways:

  • By intending to and causing serious physical injury to another person.
  • By intending to and causing physical injury to another person with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.
  • By recklessly causing serious physical injury to another person with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.
  • By intending to and causing physical injury to any person, while intending to prevent a peace officer, emergency medical personnel, a utility worker, a firefighter, or a detention or correctional officer at any municipal or county jail or state penitentiary from performing a lawful duty. This includes off-duty employed peace officers, while wearing their approved uniform and working with the approval of their employing law enforcement agency.
  • By causing physical injury to any person, while intending to cause physical injury to a teacher or an employee of a public educational institution during, or resulting from, the performance of the teacher’s or employee’s duty.
  • By causing physical injury to any person, while intending to cause physical injury to a health care worker during the course of, or as a result of, the performance of the duties of the health care worker. A “health care worker” includes a nurse, physician, technician or other person employed by or practicing at a hospital; county or district health department; long-term care facility; physician’s office, clinic, or outpatient treatment facility. The definition does not apply to assaults by patients impaired by medication or to assaults on home health care workers while they are in private residences.
  • By intentionally causing stupor, unconsciousness, or other physical or mental impairment or injury to another person by administering to a person, without the person’s consent, a drug, substance or preparation capable of producing the intended harm, unless done for the purpose of lawful medical or therapeutic treatment.

(Ala. Code § 13A-6-20)

What Constitutes “Physical Injury”?

Physical injury is an impairment of physical condition or substantial pain. A judge or jury must often determine whether an alleged victim has suffered physical injury based on the facts of a case. For example, testimony that a victim received a kick to the groin in one case and that a victim had a foot stomped on in another sufficed to prove physical injury in both cases.

Penalties for Assault in the Second Degree

Someone convicted of assault in the second degree can be subjected to any or all of the following penalties:

  • Incarceration. Imprisonment is required for not less than one year and one day, and not more than ten years. However, if the defendant used or attempted to use a firearm or deadly weapon in the commission of the felony, there is a mandatory minimum of ten years of imprisonment.
  • Fines. The court can impose a fine up to $15,000. If the defendant received a pecuniary gain as a result of the crime, the court can impose a fine up to double the pecuniary gain received by the defendant, even if the amount exceeds $15,000.
  • 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.
  • Habitual offender. If the defendant has a previous felony conviction, the law imposes increased penalties. The judge will sentence the defendant as if he committed assault in the first degree. The penalties for assault in the first degree are discussed above.

See a Lawyer

If you are facing a charge of felony assault, consider consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney who regularly practices in your area. Numerous defenses apply to charges of felony assault and 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. And if you decide to go to trial, having a good lawyer on your side will be essential.

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