Felony Assault in the First Degree in Connecticut

Connecticut classifies assault by degree, depending on the accused’s intent, the seriousness of the injury, the means used to inflict the injury, and the seriousness of the risks created by the accused. Assault in the first degree (the most serious) and assault in the second degree are felonies, while assault in the third degree is amisdemeanor.

To learn about assault in the second degree, see Assault in the Second Degree in Connecticut.

To learn about assault in the third degree, see Assault in the Third Degree in Connecticut.

Assault in the First Degree

A person commits assault in the first degree, classified as a Class B felony, in any of the five ways discussed below:

  • by intending to cause serious physical injury to a person and causing such injury to that person, or to a third person, with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument
  • by intending to either disfigure another person seriously and permanently, or destroy, amputate, or permanently disable a member or organ of the person’s body, and causing injury to the person or a third person
  • by recklessly engaging in conduct under circumstances showing extreme indifference to human life, which creates a risk of death to another person and causes serious physical injury to a person
  • by intending to cause serious physical injury to a person, and causing injury to that person or a third person, while aided by two or more other persons who are present, or
  • by intending to cause physical injury to another person and causing physical injury to that person, or a third person, by discharging a firearm.

(Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 53a-59.)

What distinguishes intentional from reckless conduct?

Intentional behavior occurs when a person acts with the conscious desire to cause a result or to engage in specific conduct. For example, aiming a gun at a person and pulling the trigger constitutes an intentional act.

A person acts “recklessly” by acting with a conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a result will occur or that a circumstance exists. The risk must be of such that disregarding it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation. For example, firing bullets through a wall into an occupied apartment constitutes recklessness.

(Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 53a-3.)

What constitutes “serious physical injury?"

Serious physical injury means either:

  • physical injury that creates a substantial risk of death; or
  • physical injury that causes serious disfigurement, serious impairment of health, or serious loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.

Loss of consciousness, bullet wounds, and loss of body parts are normally considered serious physical injuries in Connecticut.

(Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 53a-3.)

What constitutes a “deadly weapon?”

A deadly weapon is any weapon, whether loaded or unloaded, from which a shot may be discharged; or a switchblade knife, gravity knife, billy, blackjack, bludgeon, or metal knuckles.

(Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 53a-3.)

What constitutes a “dangerous instrument?”

A dangerous instrument means any instrument, article, or substance that, under the circumstances in which it is used or attempted or threatened to be used, is capable of causing death or serious physical injury. This includes any “vehicle,” as that term is defined by statute. A dog that has been commanded to attack also constitutes a dangerous instrument, unless the dog is owned by a law enforcement agency and the dog is in the performance of its duties under the direct supervision, care and control of an assigned law enforcement officer.

(Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 53a-3.)

A judge or jury must often examine the facts of a case and determine whether an alleged victim has suffered serious physical injury, or whether an object constitutes a dangerous instrument. For example, in one case a jury determined a garden hose nozzle constituted a dangerous instrument because the accused used it to beat the victim. In another case, a jury considered the manner and circumstances in which a defendant used his foot to determine if “feet and footwear” constituted a dangerous instrument at the time of the alleged crime.

When the Vvctim is pregnant

If the assault of a pregnant woman results in the termination of the pregnancy, such that a live birth does not result, the crime is elevated to a Class A felony, which results in harsher penalties.

(Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 53a-59c.)

Penalties for assault in the first degree

Someone convicted of assault in the first degree can be subjected to any or all of the following penalties:

  • Incarceration. Imprisonment is permitted for not less than one year, nor more than twenty years. If a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument is used to cause serious physical injury, the court cannot reduce or suspend the term of imprisonment to less than five years. Additionally, if the victim of the crime is less than ten years of age, or if the victim is a witness and the defendant knew the victim was a witness, there is a ten year mandatory minimum sentence, which the judge cannot reduce or suspend. If the victim is an elderly, blind, disabled or pregnant person or a person with intellectual disability, there is a five year mandatory minimum sentence. For Class A felonies, imprisonment is permitted for not less than ten years, nor more than twenty-five years. The judge cannot reduce or suspend the term of imprisonment to less than five years.
  • Fines. The court can impose a fine up to $15,000.
  • Probation. A person on probation regularly meets with a probation officer and fulfills other terms and conditions, such as maintaining employment and attending counseling.
  • Community service. Courts often include as a part of probation the requirement that the defendant work for a specified number of hours with court-approved organizations, such as charities.

(Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § § 53a-35a, 53a-59, 53a-59a, 53a-41.)

See a Lawyer

If you are facing a charge of assault in the first degree, consider consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney who regularly practices in your area. Numerous defenses apply to charges of assault in the first degree, and a lawyer can evaluate the strength of the prosecution’s case against you and help develop any defenses that might apply to your case.

A lawyer’s skillful negotiation with the prosecutor can sometimes result in a reduction of charges or a reduction in penalties, such as less prison time, no prison time, probation, and lower fines. A local criminal defense attorney, who knows how the prosecutors and judges involved in your case typically handle such cases, can assist with these negotiations. Finally, if you decide to go to trial, having a good lawyer on your side will be essential.

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