Assault in the First Degree in Missouri

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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 second degree assault, see Assault in the Second Degree in Missouri.

For additional information on assault in the third degree, see Misdemeanor Assault in Missouri.

Assault in the First Degree

A person is guilty of assault in the first degree if he:

  • attempts to kill another person, or
  • knowingly causes or attempts to cause another person serious physical injury.

If a first degree assault results in serious physical injury to the victim, the crime is a Class A felony, which is punishable by 10 to 30 years (or even life) in prison. If a first degree assault does not result in serious physical injury to the victim, the crime is a Class B felony, punishable by five to 15 years in prison.

(Mo. Ann. Stat. §§ 565.050, 558.011.)

Serious Physical Injury

Serious physical injury means physical injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes serious disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part of the body. Common examples of serious physical injury include gunshot wounds, knife wounds, and beatings that result in cracked ribs or punctured lungs.

(Mo. Ann. Stat. § 565.002.)

What Constitutes Acting “Knowingly?”

A person acts knowingly when he is aware that his conduct is practically certain to bring about a particular result. For example, aiming a cocked and loaded handgun at another person, and then pulling the trigger, is practically certain to cause injury to the other person.

(Mo. Ann. Stat. § 562.016.)

Assault in the First Degree Against Certain Victims

If the victim of an assault in the first degree is law enforcement officer, corrections officer, emergency personnel, highway worker in a construction zone or work zone, utility worker, cable worker, or probation and parole officer, the crime is a Class A felony, regardless of what injury does or does not result from the offense. A Class A felony is punishable by 10 to 30 years (or even life) in prison.

(Mo. Ann. Stat. §§ 565.081, 558.011.)

Domestic Assault in the First Degree

Assault in the first 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 first degree. The penalties for this crime can be higher under certain circumstances than for ordinary assault in the first degree. For information about the crime of domestic violence in Missouri, seeMissouri Domestic Violence Laws.

(Mo. Ann. Stat. § 565.072.)


A person convicted of assault in the first 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.

(Mo. Ann. Stat. § 559.100.)

Suspended Sentence and Probation

A court in Missouri can impose a jail sentence and then suspend the jail sentence and place the defendant on probation.

SES probation

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). A person on probation must meet regularly with his probation officer and comply with conditions of probation such as finding regular employment, attending counseling and refraining from any criminal activity.

(Mo. Ann. Stat. § 557.011.)

Pleas and Pre-Trial Options

If you are facing a charge of assault in the first degree in Missouri, an attorney can investigate the case and determine if you were wrongfully charged or there are other reasons why the case should be dismissed before trial. If the charges are not dismissed, an attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor on your behalf, or he will prepare a defense and represent you at trial.

The Value of Good Representation

A felony conviction becomes part of your permanent criminal record. If you are convicted later of another crime, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case. A convicted felon loses the right to vote, hold public office, serve as a juror, and carry or own firearms. In certain circumstances, a felony conviction also can result in loss of a professional license. A conviction for a violent felony can hurt you when you are looking for a job or applying to rent a house or apartment.

Only someone familiar with the local criminal court system and cases like yours will know how good your chances are for a favorable outcome in court or at the negotiating table. A knowledgeable attorney will take all of this into consideration, assist you in making decisions about your case, and protect your rights.

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