Montana Misdemeanor Assault

Misdemeanor assault in Montana is a crime with serious penalties, including hefty fines and potential jail time. Defendants can be charged with the crime in several situations.

(Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-201.)

For information on felony assault in Montana, see  Aggravated Felony Assault in Montana. For information on assault with a deadly weapon, see  Assault with a Deadly Weapon in Montana.

Purposely Causing Injury

Someone who knowingly and intentionally causes bodily injury can be charged with assault. This means that only deliberate acts will support an assault charge; an accidental blow, for example, will not. Similarly, someone who hurts another while suffering a temporary blackout has not assaulted the victim (though the person might be civilly liable for any injuries).

The statute requires “bodily injury,” which means that some injury to the victim’s body must be inflicted. It excludes psychological trauma. The level of injury need not be great, for as long as physical pain occurs as a result of the injury, an assault has occurred. Note that if the injury is more serious, the offense can be charged as a felony (seeAggravated Felony Assault in Montana.)

(Mont. Code Ann. § § 45-5-201, 45-2-101.)

What Constitutes Acting “Purposely or Knowingly?”

In Montana, a person acts purposely when his conscious objective is to achieve a particular result. A person acts knowingly when he is aware that it is highly probable that a particular result will be caused by the person's conduct.

(Mont. Code Ann. § 45-2-101.)

Negligently Hurting Someone with a Weapon

If you accidentally hurt someone with a weapon, you can be charged with misdemeanor assault. A weapon, such as a slingshot, is something that designed to be used to kill or injure someone. For example, using a slingshot in a popular hiking area and accidentally hitting a hiker would support a charge of assault. Again, the injury must be physical.

(Mont. Code Ann. § § 45-5-201, 45-2-101.)

Insulting or Provocative Physical Contact

Insulting or provocative contact with another person can also constitute an assault, such as shoving an opposing fan at a sporting event. The contact need not rise to the level of an injury, as explained above. Other examples of provocative conduct can include grabbing someone’s wrist or shoulder to make him face you, or spitting on someone during an argument.

(Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-201.)

Threatening Conduct

Finally, someone who acts in a way that causes another to fear an imminent attack is guilty of an assault in Montana. This would include, for example, someone cocking his fists and saying “I’m going to bash your face in,” or a car driver accelerating at a pedestrian with the intention of scaring the individual. Note that words alone do  notconstitute assault.

The victim’s fear must be one that a reasonable person would share. For example, simply walking towards someone in a busy downtown area may frighten a particular person, but if a reasonable person would not be afraid, the threat is not credible and would not constitute an assault.

(Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-201.)

Penalties

A person convicted of assault in Montana can be fined up to $500, receive a county jail sentence up to six months, or both.

(Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-201.)

Assaulting Protected Victims

Montana law provides for additional penalties if the victim of the assault is a protected victim, as described below.

Assaulting a partner or family member

Assaulting a partner or family member can result in one day (and up to one year) in jail, a fine of $100 (and up to $1,000), or both. A person with a prior history of domestic abuse faces more severe penalties. For more information on assault and domestic violence, see  Montana Domestic Violence Laws.

(Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-206.)

Assaulting a sports official

A person commits assault upon a sports official if the offender:

  • purposely or knowingly causes bodily injury to the sports official
  • negligently causes bodily injury to the sports official with a weapon
  • purposely or knowingly makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with the sports official, or
  • purposely or knowingly causes reasonable apprehension of bodily injury to the sports official.

Assaulting a sports official is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

(Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-211.)

Assault with Bodily Fluid

A person commits the offense of assault with a bodily fluid (for example, feces, urine, blood, and saliva) if the person purposely causes one of the person's bodily fluids to make physical contact with a law enforcement officer, detention facility staff, emergency responder, or health care provider acting in the course of his duties:

  • during or after an arrest for a criminal offense
  • while the person is incarcerated in or being transported to or from a state prison, a county, city, or regional jail or detention facility, or a health care facility, or
  • if the person is a minor, while the youth is detained in or being transported to or from a county, city, or regional jail or detention facility or a youth detention facility, secure detention facility, regional detention facility, short-term detention center, state youth correctional facility, health care facility, or shelter care facility.

Assault with bodily fluid is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

(Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-214.)

Hate Crimes Sentence Enhancement

Assaulting a victim because of his race, creed, religion, color, national origin, or involvement in civil rights or human rights activities can add two (and up to ten) years in prison to an existing assault prison sentence.

(Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-222.)

See a Lawyer

It is a good idea to consult with a lawyer as soon as you are charged with an assault, especially given the possibility of jail time. Your attorney can help you to explore your options, such as pursuing diversion programs, raising defenses, or negotiating a plea bargain, in order to achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

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