Assault in the Fourth Degree in Oregon

The basics of assault 4 charges and penalties in Oregon.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law

In Oregon, you can face assault charges for physically injuring another person. The state has four degrees of assault. This article covers fourth-degree assault, which is the least serious level of assault.

What Is an Assault in Oregon?

A person who causes "physical injuries" to another can be charged with assault.

Generally speaking, the greater the harm or risk of harm is, the more serious the penalty will be. For instance, a person who causes serious physical injuries to a victim will usually face harsher penalties than if physical injuries result. However, this equation can change if a defendant uses a firearm or other deadly weapon (designed to cause serious harm or death) in the assault.

Physical Injuries

Fourth-degree assault crimes generally involve unlawful acts that cause physical injuries. The law defines "physical injuries" as "impairment of physical condition or substantial pain." Examples include wounds that break the skin and cause bleeding, bruises causing pain and swelling, or a minor sprain.

Minor or Serious Physical Injuries

If the pain or injury is momentary (or fleeting), the crime will often be harassment rather than assault. On the flip side, pain or injuries that are protracted (such as broken bones, serious sprains, or extensive stitches) or that cause a substantial risk of death (like a gunshot wound or internal bleeding requiring surgery) would be considered "serious physical injuries" and fall under assault in the first, second, or third degrees.

(Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 161.015, 161.085 (2024).)

What Is Assault in the Fourth Degree in Oregon?

A person commits fourth-degree assault (sometimes called assault 4) by:

  • intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing physical injury to another, or
  • negligently causing physical injury to another with a deadly weapon.

Intentional and knowing acts are generally conscious decisions to harm. Reckless means a person was aware of a substantial risk of harm and chose to disregard it. A person commits criminal negligence by failing to be aware that their actions present a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm.

For example, punching or kicking someone and causing them painful bruises would be assault in the fourth degree. Negligently waving a knife around to scare someone and accidentally cutting them could also fall under this crime. A reckless act might be angrily pushing someone out of the way and the victim falls onto a sharp object and receives a nasty gash.

(Or. Rev. Stat. § 163.160 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Fourth-Degree Assault in Oregon?

Fourth-degree assault carries class A misdemeanor penalties—unless any of the following are true:

  • the defendant committed the assault in the presence of a minor (one of the parties' children or stepchildren or a child living in the home)
  • the defendant has a prior assault, strangulation, or menacing conviction against the same victim
  • the defendant has three previous assault, strangulation, or menacing convictions, or
  • the defendant knowingly assaulted a pregnant victim.

These acts are class C felonies (and sometimes associated with domestic violence).

A conviction for a class A misdemeanor can mean up to 364 days in jail and a $6,250 fine. Class C felonies carry up to 5 years of prison time and a $125,000 fine.

(Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 161.605, 161.615, 161.625, 161.635, 163.160 (2024).)

What Other Assault-Related Charges Exist in Oregon?

In many states, assault crimes include acts of placing a person in fear of imminent harm or having any offensive contact with a victim. Oregon law has similar crimes but with different names.

Harassment: Offensive Touching

For instance, as discussed briefly above, a person who makes physical contact with another in an offensive manner commits harassment. This offense might come into play if a defendant grabs or slaps a victim or pulls their hair and minor injuries occur that don't involve substantial pain.

Harassment crimes are typically class B misdemeanors, with a maximum 6-month jail sentence. However, if the defendant touched the victim's intimate parts or domestic violence was involved, the crime may increase to a class A misdemeanor.

(Or. Rev. Stat. § 166.065 (2024).)

Menacing: Fear of Imminent Harm

A person commits menacing—a class A misdemeanor—when they intentionally try to place another in fear of imminent serious physical injury. For instance, angrily walking toward someone with a raised fist would be menacing, as would threatening to pummel them.

(Or. Rev. Stat. § 163.190 (2024).)

Reckless Endangerment: Risk of Harm

It's also a class A misdemeanor to engage in reckless conduct that creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another. Trying to drive someone off the road into a ditch could be considered reckless endangerment. (Or. Rev. Stat. § 163.195 (2024).)

Possible Defenses to Fourth-Degree Assault Charges in Oregon

A person facing assault charges can fight the charges in several ways, including by poking holes in the prosecution's case or by raising an affirmative defense.

Self-defense. A defendant might claim self-defense or defense of others if the alleged victim started the altercation or was about to. To be successful, the defendant can only use as much force as is reasonably necessary to defend against the attacker's use or imminent use of unlawful force. (Or. Rev. Stat. § 161.209 (2024).)

Reasonable doubt. The defense might also try to poke holes in the prosecution's case by arguing the prosecution failed to prove the required intent or injuries. In this case, the defense might be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you face assault 4 or related charges in Oregon, contact a criminal defense lawyer. An attorney can help you understand the charges and the possible penalties and zealously defend your case.

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