Kentucky Assault Laws

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In Kentucky, the crime of misdemeanor assault (also called assault in the fourth degree) is committed by causing physical injury to another person.

Assaults that cause serious injury or that occur under circumstances where serious injury is likely and assaults against certain protected employees are felony assaults. For more information on these crimes, see Felony Assault Laws in Kentucky.

Under Kentucky’s laws, a person commits the crime of misdemeanor assault by:

  • intentionally or wantonly causing physical injury to another, or
  • recklessly causing physical injury with a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument.

Physical injury is any impairment of the body, including substantial pain.

(Ken. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 508.030, 500.080.)

For example, a bruise or a cut would likely be considered a physical injury, as would a blow to the head that caused substantial pain but left no mark.

Acting Wantonly and Recklessly

To act wantonly is to be aware of and disregard a substantial and unjustifiable risk. Being unaware of a risk due to intoxication does not excuse an individual from acting wantonly. To act recklessly is to fail to understand a substantial and unjustifiable risk. In either situation, the defendant’s behavior differs greatly from how a reasonable person would act in the same situation. (Ken. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 501.020.)

For example, driving down a winding road in the dark with no lights on would probably be considered wanton behavior if you understood the risk you were taking and reckless behavior if you did not.

Deadly Weapons and Dangerous Instruments

Under Kentucky’s laws, deadly weapons include weapons of mass destruction (bombs and chemical, biological, and radioactive weapons), shooting weapons that can cause death or serious physical injury, knives other than hunting and pocket knives, clubs and batons, nunchakus, throwing stars, and rigid artificial knuckles.

A dangerous instrument includes any item or part of the human body that causes serious physical injury and that could cause death or serious physical injury. For example, a fist or a baseball bat would likely be considered a dangerous instrument if it was used to cause serious injury.

(Ken. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 500.080.)

Punishment for Misdemeanor Assault

Assault is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $500. (Ken. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 508.030, 532.090, 534.040.)

A defendant may receive a longer or shorter jail sentence under certain circumstances, as explained below.

Increased punishment for domestic violence

Assaults between family members may be punished more severely.

An assault can be punished as a Class D felony by one to five years’ imprisonment, and a fine of $1,000 to $10,000 if the defendant:

  • commits a third or subsequent misdemeanor assault
  • within five years
  • against a family member (the family member need not the be the same in each assault).

Family members include spouses, former spouses, parents, grandparents, children, stepchildren, people who have children together, and people who live together or who have lived together in the past.

(Ken. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 403.720, 508.032, 532.060, 534.030.)

For more information on domestic violence, see Domestic Violence in Kentucky.

Decreased punishment when acting under extreme emotional disturbance

Assaults that occur when the defendant is acting under great stress may be punished less severely.

A defendant may be able to have his punishment for assault reduced to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $250 if the defendant:

  • is charged with intentionally causing physical injury, and
  • acted under an extreme emotional disturbance, which is reasonable under the circumstances as the defendant believed them to be.

(Ken. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 507.020, 508.040, 532.090, 534.040.)

For example, catching your spouse in the act of cheating and flying into a rage might be considered acting under an extreme emotional disturbance that could lessen the punishment for assault.

Obtaining Legal Advice and Counsel

An assault conviction can have serious consequences, including jail time, a fine, and a criminal record. If you are charged with assault in Kentucky, you should contact a criminal defense attorney who can tell you how your particular case is likely to fare given the facts and the judge and prosecutor assigned to handle your case. An attorney can help you obtain the best outcome in your case.

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