In Vermont, a person commits the crime of simple assault, a misdemeanor, by causing or attempting to cause bodily injury or placing another in fear of imminent bodily injury. "Reckless endangerment" is a particular type of assault, explained below.
Assaults that cause or attempt to cause serious bodily injury are felonies. For more information on these crimes, see Vermont Aggravated Assault Laws. For more information on assaults committed with a weapon, see Assault With a Deadly Weapon in Vermont.
Causing Bodily Injury
A person commits the crime of simple assault by purposely, knowingly, or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury. In Vermont, bodily injury is any physical impairment, pain, or illness.
(Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, §§ 1021, 1023.)
Under general principles of law, people act purposely when they consciously desire to engage in a certain course of conduct or obtain particular results. People act knowingly when they are aware of the nature or consequences of their conduct. People act recklessly when they disregard the substantial risks of their conduct or the consequences of their actions. Reckless behavior is always a gross deviation from how a reasonable person would behave.
For example, intentionally striking someone in the face and causing a bruise would be considered simple assault, as would recklessly throwing a firecracker into the air in a busy, public area and burning someone.
Fear of Imminent Injury
Under Vermont’s laws, a person also commits the crime of simple assault by attempting by physical menace to put another person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury (strangulation or suffocation, or any injury that creates a significant risk of death or causes substantial disfigurement or impairment of any part of the body or of health). Physical menace must be an act; it cannot merely be a verbal threat. No actual injury or physical contact is required; the crime is placing the victim in fear of injury.
(Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, §§ 1021, 1023.)
For example, yelling at a couple that you will kill them, without more, is not physical menace. However, if a person charged at the victim and threatened to stab the victim, that would probably be considered simple assault.
Fighting by Agreement
Any simple assault that is committed in the course of a fight or scuffle that is entered into by mutual consent is punished less severely in Vermont. (Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 1023.)
Assaults Against Protected Employees
Assaults that are committed against certain protected employees are punished more severely in Vermont if the employee in engaged in official duties. Protected employees include:
- law enforcement officers
- correctional officers
- health care workers, and
- emergency medical personnel.
(Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, §§ 1028, 1028a.)
Assault with Bodily Fluids
Laws against assault by bodily fluid were originally enacted to protect jailers from prisoners who spat on them (or worse). In Vermont, it is a crime for anyone to intentionally cause a protected employee who is on the job to come into contact with any bodily fluid (such as blood, mucus, or saliva) or bodily waste. Assault by bodily fluid against a correctional officer or employee or anyone lawfully present in a correctional facility, such as a visitor, is punished more severely than other assaults.
(Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 1028a.)
In Vermont, the crime of domestic assault is committed by:
- causing bodily injury to a family or household member, or
- causing a family or household member to fear imminent serious bodily injury.
Family and household members include people who are related, whether by blood, marriage, or adoption, people who live together or who have lived together, people who have children together, and people who have dated.
(Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 1042, tit. 15, § 1101.)
For more information on domestic violence, see Domestic Violence in Vermont.
In Vermont, the crime of reckless endangerment is committed by recklessly placing another person in danger of death or serious bodily injury.
(Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, §§ 1021, 1025.)
For example, driving over 100 mph with a child in the car might be considered reckless endangerment.
Simple assault is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Simple assault against a protected employee is punished by an additional year in jail for a first offense, and an additional ten years in prison for second and subsequent offenses.
Assault with bodily fluids on a correctional officer or employee, or against anyone inside a correctional facility, is punished by up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. Assault with bodily fluids against other types of employees is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000, but the court must consider whether the defendant was a patient at the time of the assault and suffered from a mental illness, the symptoms of which were made worse by the circumstances.
Domestic assault is punished by up to 18 months’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000.
Reckless endangerment is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Simple assault in the course of a fight or scuffle is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and fine of up to $500.
(Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, §§ 1023, 1025, 1028, 1028a, 1042.)
Getting Legal Advice and Representation
Being convicted of an assault crime can have serious consequences, such as jail, a fine, and a criminal record. Or, you may be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed, or obtain a not guilty verdict, or a lesser sentence than the maximum allowed by law. If you are charged with assault, you should contact a Vermont criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system and make the best arguments on your behalf to achieve the best outcome in your case.