Under Missouri law, there are three levels of assault. The least serious offense – assault in the third degree – is a misdemeanor. A person is guilty of assault in the third degree if he:
- attempts to physically injure another person or recklessly causes physical injury to another
- negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon
- purposely threatens another person, causing that person to feel afraid that he is about to suffer serious physical injury
- recklessly engages in conduct that creates a grave risk of death or serious physical injury to another person
- intentionally engages in physical contact with another that the victim finds offensive or provocative, with knowledge that the victim will find it offensive or provocative, or
- knowingly engages in offensive or provocative contact with an incapacitated person.
(Mo. Ann. Stat. §565.070.)
A reckless act is one that is committed, not necessarily with intent to harm another, but without regard for the outcome. Pushing someone out of the way in a crowd so that you can get through, without intending to injure the person, could be an assault if the person falls and is injured. A negligent act is one which is not intentional but which occurs because the actor fails to exercise reasonable care. An accidental shooting can be a negligent assault if it results from a person not being careful enough when handling or firing a gun.
Assault in the Third Degree Injury and Sentencing
The physical injury involved in assault in the third degree must be a minor injury like a cut, scrape and bruise. Injury such as a broken bone, disfigurement, loss of a limb, or requiring surgery and/or hospitalization is a “serious physical injury.” If the offender causes this kind of injury, the crime is a more serious assault. For information on felony assault, see Felony Assault in Missouri.
Assault in the third degree in Missouri is a Class A misdemeanor except for assault that involves threatening another with immediate bodily injury and assault involving offensive or provocative contact (if the victim is not incapacitated). These two assaults are Class C misdemeanors.
A person convicted of a Class A misdemeanor can be sentenced to up to one year in jail or a fine up to $1000, or both. A person convicted of a Class C misdemeanor can be sentenced to up to 15 days in jail or a fine up to $300, or both.
Assault in the Third Degree Against Certain Victims
A person is guilty of the crime of assault against a law enforcement officer, corrections officer, emergency personnel (such as a firefighter, emergency room personnel or emergency medical technician), highway worker, or probation and parole officer if he:
- recklessly causes physical injury to the victim
- purposely threatens the victim with immediate physical injury, or
- knowingly causes or attempts to cause physical contact with the victim without the victim’s consent.
This assault crime also is a Class A misdemeanor and possible punishment is the same as a regular Class A misdemeanor, as described above.
Domestic Assault in the Third Degree
Misdemeanor assault committed against a spouse, a family member, someone with whom the offender resides or previously resided, or someone with whom the offender is involved in a romantic or intimate dating relationship is a domestic assault. This crime is defined differently than assault in the third degree and the penalties can be higher under certain circumstances. For information about the crime of domestic violence in Missouri, see Criminal Domestic Violence Laws in Missouri.
A person convicted of assault in the third degree in Missouri can be required to 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.
Suspended Sentence and Probation
A court in Missouri can suspend a sentence in two ways:
- suspend imposition of sentence with or without probation, or
- impose a jail sentence and then suspend the jail sentence and place the defendant on probation.
If the court suspends imposition of sentence, the court postpones sentencing for a period of time. Normally, the court will require the defendant to meet certain requirements such as no new arrests or criminal offenses during the conditional period, as well as participating in psychological treatment or doing volunteer work in the community. The court may also require the defendant to be on supervised probation.
If the defendant satisfies all the conditions during the period set by the court and successfully complies with probation, the charge will be dismissed. The arrest and dismissal will be part of the defendant’s criminal record. If the defendant is put on probation in these circumstances, it is known in Missouri as SIS probation (suspended imposition of sentence).
If the court suspends execution of a sentence, the court imposes a jail sentence but allows the defendant to serve all or a portion of the time on probation rather than in jail. This type of probation is known as SES probation in Missouri (suspended execution of sentence). Under this type of suspended sentence, the defendant must successfully complete probation and any other conditions the court imposes. A person on supervised probation must meet with a probation officer and comply with conditions of probation such as treatment, maintaining employment, and avoiding any further criminal activity or arrests.
Pleas and Pre-Trial Options
If you are facing a charge of misdemeanor assault in Missouri, an attorney can investigate the case and determine if you were wrongfully charged or there are other reasons why the case should be dismissed before trial. If the charges are not dismissed, an attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor on your behalf, or prepare a defense and represent you at trial if you believe you have been wrongly accused or if there are no reasonable plea options.
The Value of Good Representation
A conviction for misdemeanor assault becomes part of your permanent criminal record. If you are later convicted of another crime, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case. A conviction for a violent crime – even a misdemeanor – can hurt you when you are looking for a job or applying to rent a house or apartment.
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.