Oregon recognizes four levels – or degrees – of assault. Assault in the first degree is the most serious form of assault in Oregon. For information on lesser degrees of assault, see Assault in the Second and Third Degree in Oregon and Assault in the Fourth Degree in Oregon. For information about domestic violence laws as they relate to the crime of assault in Oregon, see Domestic Violence Laws in Oregon.
A person is guilty of assault in the first degree if he:
- intentionally causes serious physical injury to another person with a dangerous or deadly weapon
- intentionally or knowingly causes serious physical injury to a child under the age of six,
- commits the crime of assault in the second degree, knowing that the victim is pregnant, or
- intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes serious physical injury to another person when driving while intoxicated if the offender has three or more previous convictions for driving while intoxicated in the last ten years; or the offender was previously convicted of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide or assault in the first, second or third degree and the death or injury resulting from the previous crime was a result of driving while intoxicated. (Or. Rev. Stat. §163.185.)
Assault in the first degree is a Class A felony in Oregon.
A reckless act is one that is deliberately committed without regard for the outcome. Pushing someone out of the way in a crowd at the edge of a cliff so that you can get through, without intending to injure the person, could be an assault if the person falls and is injured. Driving while intoxicated also can be considered a reckless act in Oregon.
Serious Physical Injury
Serious physical injury involves significant harm such as a broken bone, disfigurement, loss of a limb, or an injury requiring surgery or hospitalization. A minor injury like a cut, scrape or bruise is not a serious physical injury.
Dangerous or Deadly Weapon
A deadly weapon is an object that by definition and design is capable of causing death or serious physical injury. Examples of deadly weapons include a firearm, large hunting knife, and brass knuckles.
A dangerous weapon is an object that may not normally be a weapon but is used or threatened or attempted to be used in a way that could readily cause death or serious physical injury. A rope used to strangle someone, a metal pipe used to strike or attempt to strike someone, and a vehicle driven by a reckless or intoxicated driver that strikes a pedestrian are all dangerous weapons because of the manner in which they were used.
A person convicted of a Class A felony in Oregon can be sentenced to up to twenty years in jail or a fine up to $375,000, or both.
A person convicted of assault in Oregon must 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. Unless the victim agrees to accept a lesser amount, the person convicted must pay the entire amount of expenses and losses that the victim incurred.
Deferred or suspended sentence and probation
After the defendant is convicted or pleads guilty to an assault charge, the court can grant a deferred sentence. This means that the court postpones sentencing for a period of time on the condition that the defendant comply with certain requirements, such as no new arrests or criminal offenses during the conditional period, psychological treatment, or volunteer work in the community. The court also may require the defendant to be on supervised probation. If the defendant satisfies all the court’s requirements, the charge will be dismissed at the end of the period. The arrest and dismissal will be part of the defendant’s criminal record but he will not be a convicted felon. If the defendant fails to satisfy the court’s requirements, the court will impose a sentence and enter a conviction. A deferred sentence is highly unlikely for a defendant charged with assault in the first degree because the crime is so serious. If, however, the defendant has no criminal record and exceptional circumstances are involved, the court might consider a deferred sentence.
If the court suspends a sentence, the court imposes a jail or prison sentence but allows the defendant to serve all or a portion of the time on probation rather than in jail or prison. The defendant must successfully complete probation and any other conditions the court imposes or he will be required to complete the sentence in jail or prison. A person on supervised probation must meet with a probation officer and comply with conditions such as treatment, maintaining employment, curfews, drug tests, and avoiding any further criminal activity or arrests.
The Value of Legal Representation
A conviction for assault in the first degree is a felony conviction and 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 and carry firearms and can lose certain professional licenses. A conviction for a violent felony also can hurt you when you are looking for a job or applying to rent a house or apartment. An experienced attorney can determine whether you have any grounds for dismissal of the charges against you, explore plea options or represent you at trial.
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.