Misdemeanor Assault in Hawaii

In Hawaii, an assault occurs when a person physically injures another person, without legal justification. Assault in the first degree is a Class B felony and the most serious assault crime. Assault in the second degree is a Class C felony. Assault in the third degree is a misdemeanor. The different degrees or levels of assault depend upon several factors, including the seriousness of the victim's injury, whether the defendant actually wanted to cause the injury, and (in some cases) whether Hawaii law gives the victim special protection.

(Haw. Rev. Stat. § § 707-710, 707-711, 707-712.)

To learn about felony assault in Hawaii, see Felony Assault Laws in Hawaii. For more information assaults involving handguns, firearms, and dangerous weapons, see Assault with a Dangerous Instrument in Hawaii.

What is Misdemeanor Assault?

Misdemeanor assault occurs when a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to a victim. The crime also occurs when a person injures someone by using a dangerous instrument in a negligent way. Under Hawaii law, the crime is either a misdemeanor or a petty misdemeanor. It's charged as a petty misdemeanor only when the assault occurred during a fight or scuffle with a victim who engaged willingly in the altercation.

(Haw. Rev. Stat. § 707-712.)

Bodily injury

The term "bodily injury" covers a wide range of harm, some of which can be fairly minimal. Hawaii law defines a bodily injury as "physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition." Common examples of bodily injury include deep bruises, large scrapes, and pinched nerves.

(Haw. Rev. Stat. § 707-700.)

Acting intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly

To secure a conviction of assault in the first degree, a prosecutor must also prove that the defendant acted knowingly or intentionally. Basically, this means showing that the defendant wanted or intended to cause the serious injury. Similarly, a person acts knowingly if he knows that it's almost certain that his conduct will cause the injury.

A person acts recklessly if "he consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his conduct will cause" the injury. In other words, a person is reckless when he is aware (or should be aware) that his actions will cause the injury, but he just doesn't care.

(Haw. Rev. Stat. 702-206.)

Negligent use of a dangerous instrument

A dangerous instrument means any firearm, whether loaded or not, and whether operable or not, or other weapon, device, instrument, material, or substance which is capable of producing death or serious bodily injury. For example, a simple pencil can be a dangerous instrument if it's used to stab a person's eye.

A person acts negligently under Hawaii law if a reasonable person in his shoes would be aware that his actions carry a substantial and unjustifiable risk of injury to someone else. In other words, a person causes injury with a dangerous instrument by failing to realize that his use of the weapon or object is readily capable of causing injury.

(Haw. Rev. Stat. § § 707-700, 702-206.)

Assault Against a Law Enforcement Officer

A person commits assault against a law enforcement officer in the second degree by:

  • intentionally or knowingly causing bodily injury to a law enforcement officer performing his duties, or
  • recklessly or negligently causing bodily injury with a dangerous instrument to a law enforcement officer performing his duties.

(Haw. Rev. Stat. § 707-712.6.)


Assault in the third degree is punished as either a misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor.

  • Misdemeanor. A person convicted of a misdemeanor could receive probation or a jail sentence no greater than one year, as well as a fine of up to $2,000.
  • Petty misdemeanor. Sentences involve either probation or a period in jail no longer than 30 days, and a fine up to $1,000.

(Haw. Rev. Stat. § § 706-663, 706-640.)

Assault against a law enforcement officer in the second degree is a misdemeanor. Penalties include a jail sentence of at least 30 days and no greater than one year, as well as a fine of up to $2,000.

(Haw. Rev. Stat. § § 707-712.6, 706-663, 706-640.)

Consult With a Lawyer

Being charged with misdemeanor assault is a serious matter. It is quite advisable to consult with an attorney having knowledge of the assault laws and penalties applicable in your case. An experienced criminal defense attorney will have a sense of how to convince either a prosecutor or a jury that the defendant either did not intend to cause an injury, or did not cause an injury serious enough to merit being charged with assault. That could result in letting the defendant plead guilty to a less serious offense, like disorderly conduct; to a lesser punishment; or even dismissal of the case.

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