District of Columbia Assault Laws

In Washington, D.C., misdemeanor assaults are acts that involve threatening someone or placing the person in reasonable fear of imminent harm or unwanted physical contact.

(D.C. Code § 22-404.)

Assaults committed with the intent to kill, with a dangerous weapon, or in the course of another felony; or assaults that cause serious injury are considered felonies. For more information on this type of crime, see District of Columbia Felony Assault Laws.

Assault or Threatened Assault

In the District of Columbia, it is a misdemeanor to:

  • assault another person, or
  • threaten someone in a menacing manner.

(D.C. Code § 22-404.)

Under general legal principles, an assault is a physical act or a show of force that puts another person in fear of imminent harm or offensive physical contact. For example, hitting someone with a fist could be considered an assault, and so could throwing a beer bottle at an individual. Because the District's laws criminalize both assaults and threats, neither injury to nor physical contact with the victim is necessary to violate Washington, D.C.'s assault law.

Assaulting or Resisting an Officer

Washington, D.C. also makes it a crime to assault, resist, or interfere (without justification) with certain types of public officials or employees while the employee is performing official duties.

If the defendant has reason to believe the person is a law enforcement officer, there is no justification for resisting an arrest, even if the arrest is illegal.

Protected officials include:

  • police officers, correctional officers, and correctional officers at juvenile facilities
  • members of the fire department
  • government investigators or code inspectors
  • government (including court) employees who are charged with supervising, monitoring, or assessing people in the criminal or juvenile justice system, and
  • public vehicle inspections officers.

(D.C. Code § § 22-405, 22-404.2.)

Punishment for Misdemeanor Assault

Both assault and assaulting or resisting an officer are misdemeanors, punishable by up to 180 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

(D.C. Code § § 22-404, 22-405, 22-3571.01.)

Getting Legal Advice and Representation

A conviction for assault or assaulting an officer could result in jail time, a fine, and a criminal record. Or – usually with the assistance of a lawyer – the charges could be dismissed or reduced or a not guilty verdict could be obtained. If you are charged with assault, a District of Columbia criminal defense attorney can tell you how your case is likely to fare based on the facts and the judge and prosecutor assigned to your case. If you are charged with a crime, you should immediately contact a criminal defense attorney who can help you navigate the criminal justice system and obtain the best possible outcome in your case.

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