Alaska Assault and Battery Laws

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In Alaska, 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. Alaska classifies felony assault as either assault in the first degree (the most serious), assault in the second degree, or assault in the third degree. Assault in the fourth degree is considered a misdemeanor.

Assault in the First Degree

A person commits assault in the first degree, a Class A felony, in any of the following four ways:

  • by recklessly causing serious physical injury to another person with a dangerous instrument
  • by intentionally causing a serious physical injury to someone
  • by knowingly engaging in conduct that causes serious physical injury to a person under circumstances showing extreme indifference to the value of human life, and
  • by recklessly causing serious physical injury to another person by repeated assaults with a dangerous instrument, even if each individual assault does not separately cause serious physical injury.

See the discussions below for more information on these assaults.

(Alaska St. § 11.41.200.)

What constitutes “serious physical injury”?

Serious physical injury means either:

  • physical injury caused by an act performed under circumstances that create a substantial risk of death; or
  • physical injury that causes serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health, protracted loss or impairment of the function of a body member or organ, or that unlawfully terminates a pregnancy.

What constitutes a “dangerous instrument?”

A dangerous instrument is:

  • any deadly weapon or anything that, under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used, or threatened to be used, is capable of causing death or serious physical injury, or
  • hands or other objects when used to impede breathing or blood circulation by applying pressure on the throat or neck or obstructing the nose or mouth.

A judge or jury must often examine the specific facts of a case and determine whether an alleged victim has suffered serious physical injury or whether an object constitutes a dangerous instrument. For example, a judge or jury may have to consider the manner and circumstances in which a defendant uses a hand or foot to determine if those body parts constituted a dangerous instrument at the time of the alleged crime.

To learn more about this topic, see Assault with a Deadly Weapon in Alaska.

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 permitted for not more than twenty years. The law contains presumptive ranges, subject to adjustment for a variety of factors. For example, a first offense by someone using a firearm results in a presumptive range of seven to eleven years. On the other hand, someone convicted of a first offense with no factors requiring adjustment results in a presumptive range of five to eight years. Additionally, the presence of aggravating factors can result in a sentence greater than the presumptive range, and the presence of mitigating factors can result in a sentence less than the presumptive range.
  • Fines. The court can impose a fine up to $250,000.
  • 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.
  • Restitution. The Court can order the defendant to repay the victim injured by the offense, and can order the defendant to repay an organization that provides counseling, medical, or shelter services to the victim or other person injured by the offense.

Assault in the Second Degree

A person commits assault in the second degree, a Class B felony, in any of the following three ways:

  • By intentionally causing physical injury to another person with a dangerous instrument.
  • By recklessly causing serious physical injury to another person.
  • By recklessly causing serious physical injury to another person by repeated assaults, even if each individual assault does not separately cause serious physical injury.

(Alaska St. § 11.41.210.)

What constitutes “physical injury”?

Physical injury means a physical pain or an impairment of physical condition. A judge or jury must often determine whether an alleged victim has suffered physical injury based on the facts of a case. For example, bodily impact may occur without causing pain or impairment to a person’s physical condition. However, in one instance a victim’s statement that he felt pain when the defendant punched him satisfied the requirement.

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 permitted for not more than ten years. The law contains presumptive ranges, subject to adjustment for a variety of factors. Additionally, the presence of aggravating factors can result in a sentence greater than the presumptive range and the presence of mitigating factors can result in a sentence less than the presumptive range.
  • Fines. The court can impose a fine up to $100,000.
  • Probation, community service, and restitution. The court can impose these consequences, as explained above in “Penalties for Assault in the First Degree.”

Assault in the Third Degree

A person commits assault in the third degree, a Class C felony, in any of the following ways:

  • by recklessly placing another person in fear of imminent serious physical injury with a dangerous instrument
  • by recklessly causing physical injury to another person with a dangerous instrument
  • by recklessly, while being at least eighteen years old, causing physical injury to a child under ten, if the injury would cause a reasonable caregiver to seek medical attention from a health care professional in the form of diagnosis or treatment
  • by recklessly, while being at least eighteen years old, causing physical injury to a child under ten on more than one occasion
  • by repeatedly threatening to cause death or serious physical injury to another person with the intent to place another person in fear of death or serious physical injury to the person or the person’s family
  • by knowingly, while being at least eighteen years old, causing physical injury to a child at least ten years old, but younger than sixteen, and the injury reasonably requires medical treatment
  • by causing, with criminal negligence, physical injury that causes serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health, protracted loss or impairment of the function of a body member or organ, or that unlawfully terminates a pregnancy, and
  • after being convicted on two or more occasions in the preceding ten years of a variety of specified crimes, by recklessly causing physical injury to another person or by causing, with criminal negligence, physical injury to another person by means of a dangerous instrument.

(Alaska St. § 11.41.220.)

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 five years. The law contains presumptive ranges, subject to adjustment for a variety of factors. Additionally, the presence of aggravating factors can result in a sentence greater than the presumptive range and the presence of mitigating factors can result in a sentence less than the presumptive range.
  • Fines. The court can impose a fine up to $50,000.
  • Probation, community service, and restitution. The court may impose these consequences as explained above in “Penalties for Assault in the First Degree.”

Assault in the Fourth Degree

A person commits assault in the third degree, a Class A misdemeanor, in any of the following ways:

  • by recklessly causing physical injury to another person
  • by causing, with criminal negligence, physical injury to another person by means of a dangerous instrument, or
  • by recklessly placing another person in fear of imminent physical injury through the use of words or other conduct

(Alaska St. § 11.41.230.)

Penalties for assault in the fourth degree

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

  • Incarceration. Imprisonment is permitted for not more than one year in jail. The law contains presumptive ranges, subject to adjustment for a variety of factors. Additionally, the presence of aggravating factors can result in a sentence greater than the presumptive range and the presence of mitigating factors can result in a sentence less than the presumptive range.
  • Fines. The court can impose a fine up to $10,000.
  • Probation, community service, and restitution. The court may impose these consequences as explained above in “Penalties for Assault in the First Degree.”

See a Lawyer

If you are facing a charge of felony or misdemeanor assault, consider consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney who regularly practices in your area. A lawyer understands complicated legal definitions. Additionally, numerous defenses apply to charges of 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. Additionally, attorneys understand Alaska’s complicated sentencing laws. Finally, if you decide to go to trial, having a good lawyer on your side will be essential.

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