Assault with a Deadly Weapon in Alabama

In Alabama, assault with a deadly weapon occurs when a person uses a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument in a way that intentionally, recklessly, or with criminal negligence causes physical injury to another person. Assault with a deadly weapon can be a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the accused’s intent and the severity of the victim’s injury.

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

To learn about felony assaults, see Felony Assault in Alabama.

What Constitutes a “Deadly Weapon?”

A deadly weapon is a firearm or anything designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of inflicting death or serious physical injury. Examples of a deadly weapon include a knife, stiletto, sword, dagger, billy, black-jack, bludgeon, or metal knuckles.

(Ala. Code § 13A-1-2.)

What Constitutes a “Dangerous Instrument?”

A dangerous instrument is any instrument, article or substance that, 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.

(Ala. Code § 13A-1-2.)

Assault in the First Degree

An assault with a deadly weapon constitutes assault in the first degree, classified as a Class B felony, when an accused intends to and causes serious physical injury to another person with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.

(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 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.

(Ala. Code § 13A-1-2.)

Penalties for first degree assault with a deadly weapon

Someone convicted of assault in the first degree while using, or attempting to use, a firearm or deadly weapon, can be subjected to any or all of the following penalties:

  • Incarceration. Imprisonment is required for not less than ten years and not more than twenty years.
  • 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. For example, if a defendant steals property and sells it, he has received a pecuniary gain. The court can then impose a fine totaling twice the amount received.
  • 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 twenty years. The maximum fine increases to $60,000.

(Ala. Code §§ 13A-5-6, 13A-5-11, 13A-5-9.)

Assault in the Second Degree

An assault with a deadly weapon constitutes assault in the second degree (less serious than first degree assault), classified as a Class C felony, in either of the following ways:

  • by intending to and causing physical injury to another person with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, or
  • by recklessly causing serious physical injury to another person with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.

(Ala. Code § 13A-6-21.)

What constitutes “physical injury?”

Physical injury is less significant than “serious physical injury,” which is required for first degree assault. 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.

(Ala. Code § 13A-1-2.)

Penalties for second degree assault with a deadly weapon

Someone convicted of assault in the second degree while using, or attempting to use, a firearm or deadly weapon, can be subjected to any or all of the following penalties:

  • Incarceration. Imprisonment is required for ten years.
  • 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.

(Ala. Code §§ 13A-5-6, 13A-5-11, 13A-5-9.)

Third Degree Assault With a Deadly Weapon

An assault with a deadly weapon constitutes assault in the third degree, classified as a Class A misdemeanor, when an accused causes, with criminal negligence, physical injury to another with a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument.

(Ala. Code § 13A-6-22.)

What Constitutes “criminal negligence?”

Criminal negligence is more serious than simple negligence or carelessness, which accompanies most accidents. A person acts with criminal negligence by failing to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk. For example, causing an automobile accident while driving five miles per hour over the speed limit might result in civil liability against the driver. On the other hand, driving considerably faster than the speed limit and causing injury to someone might result in a criminal charge.

(Ala. Code § 13A-2-2.)

Penalties for third degree assault with a deadly weapon

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

  • Incarceration. Not more than one year of hard labor for the county or imprisonment in the county jail.
  • Fines. The court can impose a fine up to $6,000. 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 $6,000.
  • 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.

(Ala. Code §§ 13A-6-22, 13A-5-7, 13-A-5-12.)

Hate Crimes

Alabama requires additional jail or prison time if the assault was motivated by the victim's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or physical or mental disability. For assault in the first degree, the minimum prison sentence is ten years. For assault in the second degree, the minimum prison sentence is two years; and for assault in the third degree, the minimum jail sentence is three months.

(Ala. Code § 13A-5-13.)

See a Lawyer

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

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