Felony assault in Montana is known as “aggravated assault.” Those charged face the possibility of serious penalties, including large fines and substantial time in state prison. Prosecutors may bring a charge of aggravated assault in the following circumstances.
Less serious assaults are charged as misdemeanors. For more information on misdemeanor assault in Montana, see Misdemeanor Assault in Montana.
For more information on assault with a deadly weapon, see Assault with a Deadly Weapon in Montana.
Knowingly Causing Serious Bodily Injury
Aggravated assault can be charged when the victim suffers “serious bodily injury,” which is a physical injury that creates a substantial risk of death. An example of aggravated assault includes physical contact, such as a beating, that places the victim in critical condition or in a coma.
Aggravated assault also occurs when the physical contact results, or can reasonably be expected to result, in serious permanent disfigurement, such as severe facial scars due to boiling water or acid, or extended loss of a part of one’s body or organ. The loss must be more than temporary, but not necessarily permanent. For example, losing one’s spleen after a knife wound to the abdomen, or having to amputate a finger after a bruising fight, would support a charge of aggravated assault.
If the harm is mere “bodily injury,” such as physical pain or the temporary impairment of a physical condition, the charge is likely to be a misdemeanor. See Misdemeanor Assault in Montana for more information.
Using Force to Place the Victim in Fear
Another way to commit aggravated assault is to use force or physical contact on the victim, intending to make that victim fear an imminent assault that would cause serious injury or death. For example, grabbing a woman and dragging her into a dark alley while tearing off her clothes is aggravated assault because of the fear of rape created by the contact.
The victim’s fear must be reasonable—the reaction that any reasonable person would have in the same situation. For example, binding someone with duct tape, wrapping him in a rug, and driving to a secluded bridge would most likely cause fear of serious injury or death in a reasonable person. In contrast, striking someone with a neon-yellow foam sword would not be aggravated assault, as a reasonable person would probably not fear serious injury or death from such an action.
Aggravated assault, a felony in Montana, is punishable by a term in the state prison of up to 20 years, and a fine of up to $50,000. The sentencing judge may not sentence an offender to pay a fine unless the offender is or will be able to pay the fine.
See a Lawyer
It is a good idea to consult with a lawyer as soon as you are charged with aggravated assault, especially given the possibility of jail time. Your attorney can help you to explore your options, such as pursuing diversion programs, raising defenses, or negotiating a plea bargain, in order to achieve the best possible outcome in your case. For information on selecting a criminal defense attorney, see Consulting a Criminal Defense Lawyer.