In New Mexico, the crime of assault is an attempt to commit a physical attack, or intentional threats, words, or actions that cause a person to feel afraid of impending violence. Assault does not involve actual physical contact. Actual offensive physical contact, such as punching another person or hitting someone with an object, is a battery.
Assault crimes start as misdemeanors in New Mexico, but assault becomes a felony crime—aggravated assault—when it involves a deadly weapon, concealment, or intent to commit a felony.
In New Mexico, assault is:
Attempting to batter, strike, push, or otherwise physically injure another is assault. For example, a person who takes a swing at someone during a heated argument but misses commits assault. Threatening to beat someone up or to "break your arm," when said in a menacing or angry and believable manner, can be criminal assault if the victim fears for their safety. (N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-3-1 (2023).)
The penalties for simple assault start as a petty misdemeanor. When an assault involves a protected victim, the penalties increase to a misdemeanor.
A person who is convicted of assault—without any other aggravating factors involved—faces a petty misdemeanor. Petty misdemeanors are punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.
Assault increases to a misdemeanor offense if the victim targeted is a school employee, sports official, or health care worker who's performing their duties. A conviction for a misdemeanor carries up to 364 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
(N.M. Stat. §§ 30-3-1, 30-3-9, 30-3-9.1, 30-3-9.2, 31-19-1 (2023).)
New Mexico defines aggravated assault as:
It doesn't matter whether the defendant actually intends to harm the victim. It's aggravated assault when any of these wrongful actions take place.
(N.M. Stat. § 30-3-2 (2023).)
Aggravated assault crimes carry third- and fourth-degree felony penalties.
Aggravated assault—with a deadly weapon, by concealment, or with intent to commit a felony—are all fourth-degree felonies. A person convicted of aggravated assault in New Mexico faces a basic sentence of 18 months in prison and a $5,000.
Penalties for certain aggravated assault crimes increase to a third-degree felony when committed against a protected victim, including a school employee, sports official, or health care worker who's performing their duties. New Mexico punishes a third-degree felony with a basic sentence of three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
(N.M. Stat. §§ 30-3-2, 30-3-9, 30-3-9.1, 30-3-9.2, 31-18-15 (2023).)
In New Mexico, assault increases to a second- or third-degree felony if the person assaults another with the intent to kill the victim or to commit murder, mayhem, robbery, burglary, or sexual assault (violent felonies).
For example, shooting at someone with the intent to kill but missing falls under this crime. Threatening bodily harm and demanding a victim perform oral sex is another example of assault with intent to commit a violent felony. Holding a crowbar over a convenience store clerk and demanding money (intent to rob) would also be a crime under this section.
A person convicted of assault with intent to commit a violent felony faces third-degree felony penalties of up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The penalty increases to a second-degree felony if the defendant assaulted a school employee or health care worker with intent to kill. Second-degree felonies are punishable by a nine-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.
(N.M. Stat. §§ 30-3-3, 30-3-9, 30-3-9.2, 31-18-15 (2023).)
New Mexico law provides certain sentencing enhancements and parole requirements for assault crimes involving aggravating factors.
New Mexico judges can increase a defendant's basic sentence (those listed above) by up to one-third if aggravating factors were involved, such as the defendant committing the crime in a cruel manner, lacking remorse, or having an accomplice. (N.M. Stat. § 31-18-15.1 (2023).)
A defendant who commits assault motivated by hate can face enhanced penalties. The judge can add a year to a defendant's sentence for a felony hate crime and two years for a second felony hate crime. If the hate crime was a misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor, the judge may require the defendant to complete community service hours, receive treatment, or attend educational classes. (N.M. Stat. § 31-18B-3 (2023).)
New Mexico law increases the basic sentence for repeat felony offenders by the following amounts:
The judge cannot suspend or defer the enhanced sentence. (N.M. Stat. § 31-18-17 (2023).)
Inmates serving time for a second- or third-degree felony must complete a two-year parole period. The parole period is one year for inmates serving time for a fourth-degree felony.
(N.M. Stat. Ann. § 31-21-10 (2023).)
If you're facing assault charges, even misdemeanor assault, it's a good idea to speak with a criminal defense attorney. Assault charges can mean jail or prison time, plus fines and fees. They also look bad on one's criminal record.