In Hawaii, an assault occurs when a person physically injures another person, without legal justification or right. Hawaii has three assault crimes: first- and second-degree assault, which are felonies; and third-degree assault, which is a misdemeanor (and the topic of this article).
(Haw. Rev. Stat. § 707-712).
For information of felony assault in Hawaii, see Felony Assault in Hawaii.
What is Misdemeanor Assault?
Misdemeanor assault occurs when a person causes any “bodily injury” to a victim and does so either intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly. The crime also occurs when a person injures someone by using a “dangerous instrument” in a negligent way. Under Hawaii law, the crime is either a misdemeanor or a petty misdemeanor. It’s charged as a petty misdemeanor when the assault occurred during a fight or scuffle with a victim who engaged willingly in the altercation.
(Haw. Rev. Stat. § 707-712).
The term “bodily injury” covers a wide range of harm, some of which can be fairly minimal. Hawaii law defines a bodily injury as “physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.” (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 707-700).
Acting intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly
To secure a conviction for misdemeanor assault, a prosecutor must also prove that the defendant acted either intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly. Basically, a person who acted either intentionally or knowingly wanted to cause an injury. As for acting recklessly, a person is reckless when he is aware (or should be aware) that his actions will cause an injury, but he just doesn’t care. Under Hawaii law, a person acts recklessly when “he consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his conduct will cause” an injury (Haw. Rev. Stat. 702-206(3)(c)).
Negligent use of a dangerous instrument
A dangerous instrument is a gun or other weapon, or even something that, while not usually a weapon, can nonetheless be used in a way that can cause injury. For example, a simple pencil can be a dangerous instrument if it’s used to stab a person’s eye.
A person acts negligently under Hawaii law if a reasonable person in his shoes would be aware that his actions carry a substantial and unjustifiable risk of injury to someone else. In other words, a person causes injury with a dangerous instrument by failing to realize that his use of the weapon or object is readily capable of causing injury.
(Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 702-206(4)(c), (d); and 707-712(1)(b)).
Third-degree assault is punished as either a misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor.
- Misdemeanor. A person convicted of a misdemeanor could receive probation or a jail sentence no greater than one year, as well as a fine of up to $2,000. (Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 706-663; 706-640(d).)
- Petty misdemeanor. Sentences involve either probation or a period in jail no longer than 30 days, and a fine up to $1,000. (Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 706-663; 706-640(e).)
Consult With a Lawyer
Being charged with misdemeanor assault is a serious matter. It is quite advisable to consult with an attorney having knowledge of the assault laws and penalties applicable in your case. An experienced criminal defense attorney will have a sense of how to convince either a prosecutor or a jury that the defendant either did not intend to cause an injury, or did not cause an injury serious enough to merit being charged with assault. That could result in letting the defendant plead guilty to a less serious offense, like disorderly conduct; to a lesser punishment; or even dismissal of the case.