Assault in the First, Second, and Third Degrees in Oregon

The basics of Oregon's felony assault laws and penalties.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated May 21, 2024

In Oregon, a person who causes physical injuries to another can be charged with assault. This article will review felony assault crimes, including first-, second-, and third-degree assault and assault of a public safety officer.

How Oregon Classifies Assault Crimes

Oregon has four degrees of assault, as well as a separate crime for assaulting a public safety officer. First-degree assaults involve the greatest level of harm and carry the harshest penalties. The least severe penalties apply to fourth-degree assault (discussed in a separate article), which involves the lowest risk and resulting harm.

To distinguish the different levels of harm, the law looks at the seriousness of the injuries, whether a weapon was used, the victim's status, and the defendant's culpability level.

Definitions Relating to Assault Crimes

Felony assault crimes can involve unlawful acts that involve a deadly or dangerous weapon or that cause physical injuries or serious physical injuries.

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.

Serious physical injuries. Pain or injuries that are protracted (such as broken bones or serious sprains) or that cause a substantial risk of death (like a gunshot wound or internal bleeding requiring surgery) would be considered serious physical injuries.

Deadly weapons are devices or substances specifically designed to cause death or serious physical injuries, such as a gun, knife, or poison.

Dangerous weapons are any weapons, devices, or substances that can be used to cause serious physical injuries or death. For instance, a glass bottle, crowbar, or a piece of wood can be a dangerous weapon.

Defendant's Culpability

The defendant's mental state or culpability also comes into play. Intentional and knowing acts are generally conscious decisions to harm. Acting recklessly means a person was aware of a substantial risk of harm and consciously disregarded it.

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

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

First-degree assault (assault 1) carries the harshest of the assault penalties. It's a class A felony to:

  • intentionally or knowingly cause another serious physical injury with a deadly or dangerous weapon, or
  • commit second-degree assault against a victim knowing they are pregnant.

The classic example of first-degree assault involves shooting someone and causing serious harm and risk of death.

A person convicted of this class A felony faces up to 20 years in prison and a $375,000 fine. A defendant must serve at least 90 months (7½ years) behind bars.

(Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 137.700, 163.185 (2024).)

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

Assault in the second degree (assault 2) occurs when a person:

  • intentionally or knowingly causes another serious physical injury
  • intentionally or knowingly causes another physical injury with a deadly or dangerous weapon, or
  • recklessly causes serious physical injuries using a deadly or dangerous weapon and under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life.

Examples of assault 2 could include breaking someone's arm by pushing them down a flight of stairs or stabbing someone and leaving a gash that needs stitches. (If the victim is pregnant, the crime becomes first-degree assault.)

This assault level carries class B felony penalties of 10 years' prison time and a $250,000 fine. A mandatory minimum 70-month sentence (nearly 6 years) applies.

(Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 137.700, 163.175 (2024).)

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

Third-degree assault (assault 3) covers several situations, including harming a young child or individual working in a protected profession, using a weapon, engaging in extremely reckless conduct, or having an accomplice.

Protected professions. A person commits third-degree assault by intentionally or knowingly causing physical injuries to public transit operators, EMS providers, taxi drivers, highway workers, and highway flaggers who are engaged in their professional duties.

Young child. It's third-degree assault for an adult to cause physical injuries to a child age 10 or younger.

Weapons and extremely reckless conduct. A person commits third-degree assault by recklessly causing serious physical injuries to another (1) using a deadly or dangerous weapon or (2) under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life. If both factors apply, third-degree assault charges apply when physical injuries result.

Accomplice. Finally, a person who intentionally or knowingly causes a victim physical injuries with another's aid commits third-degree assault. For these charges, the accomplice must be present during the assault.

A person convicted of assault in the third degree will face class C felony penalties of 5 years in prison and a $125,000 fine.

(Or. Rev. Stat. § 163.165 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Assaulting a Public Safety Officer in Oregon?

Oregon has a separate law that applies to assaults against police officers and public safety officers. This law carries the same class C felony penalties as third-degree assault but also imposes mandatory minimum sentences.

A person can be convicted under this law for intentionally or knowingly causing physical injuries to a peace officer, firefighter, corrections officer or staff, parole or probation officer, or animal control officer. This crime requires the prosecutor to prove the defendant knew the victim was acting in their official capacity when the assault happened.

The maximum prison sentence for this offense is 5 years. The judge cannot allow a defendant to be placed on probation or a suspended sentence until they've served a minimum of seven days behind bars. When the victim is a peace officer, the minimum confinement term increases to 14 days.

(Or. Rev. Code § 163.208 (2024).)

Possible Defenses to Felony 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're facing felony assault charges, speak with a local criminal defense attorney. An attorney can protect your rights and help you understand the criminal legal system.

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