If we boil Kentucky’s assault laws down to the simplest definition, assault is the unwanted touching of another person that results in physical injury or is intended to result in physical injury. After that simple statement, things get more complicated. Several factors determine the degree of the assault charge.
Intentional or Wanton or Reckless?
Intentional: Under KRS § 501.020, intentional conduct is when, a person’s “conscious objective is to cause that result or to engage in that conduct” – in other words, they did it on purpose. An example would be when Man A beats up Man B because B was making eyes at A’s girlfriend. Accidentally hitting someone with your car would not be an assault, because there was no intent, but deliberately running someone down would be.
Wanton: The statute defines wanton conduct as when a person is “aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstances exist” – in other words, they knew there was a chance harm could result but they did it anyway. An example of wanton conduct would be when someone becomes voluntarily intoxicated then gets behind the wheel, causing a crash where others are seriously injured. Being drunk or high is not a defense.
Reckless: A person acts recklessly when he fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists. The failure to perceive it must be a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.
Physical Injury or Serious Physical Injury?
The seriousness, or degree, of the assault charge differs according to the seriousness of the injury or intended injury. Kentucky law defines a physical injury as “substantial physical pain or any impairment of physical condition.” A slap on the back might not meet the definition, but a slap in the face that broke a nose would.
“Serious physical injury” means one which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes serious and prolonged disfigurement, prolonged impairment of health, or prolonged loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ. A concussion is a serious physical injury.
Dangerous Instrument or Deadly Weapon?
A “dangerous instrument” refers to any item or part of the human body that causes serious physical injury and that could cause death or serious physical injury. A baseball bat would likely be considered a dangerous instrument if it was used to bash someone in an effort to seriously injure them. So would a fist or a bottle.
Under Kentucky’s laws, “deadly weapons” include weapons of mass destruction (bombs and chemical, biological, and radioactive weapons), shooting weapons that can cause death or serious physical injury, knives other than hunting and pocket knives, clubs and batons, nunchakus, throwing stars, and rigid artificial knuckles.
Degrees of Assault in Kentucky
There are four degrees of assault under Kentucky law. The degree of the charge takes into consideration the elements listed above, as well as others. See KY. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 508.010, 508.020, 508.025. 508.030.
Assault 1st Degree (KRS § 508.010)
A person is guilty of assault in the first degree when (a) he intentionally causes serious physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument; or (b) exhibits extreme indifference to the value of human life by wantonly engaging in conduct that creates a grave risk of death to another person, causing serious physical injury to them. Assault 1st Degree is a Class B felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than 10 but no more than 20 years in prison.
Assault 2nd Degree (KRS § 508.020)
A person is guilty of assault in the second degree when (a) he intentionally causes serious physical injury to another person; or (b) causes physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument; or (c) wantonly causes serious physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument. Assault 2nd Degree is a Class C felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than 5 but no more than 10 years in prison.
Assault 3rd Degree (KRS § 508.025)
A person is guilty of assault in the third degree when he recklessly, with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, or intentionally causes or attempts to cause physical injury to any of the following:
- a police officer
- a federal peace officer
- a state employee of a detention or residential treatment facility
- an employee of the Department of Community Based Services employed as a social worker
- paid or volunteer emergency medical services personnel acting on the job
- a paid or volunteer member of an organized fire department
- a paid or volunteer rescue squad personnel affiliated with the Division of Emergency Management or of the Department of Military Affairs
- a probation and parole officer
- a transportation officer providing inmate transportation
- a public or private elementary or secondary school employee
- a public or private elementary or secondary school volunteer.
Assault 3rd Degree is a Class D felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than 1 but no more than 5 years in prison.
Assault 4th Degree (KRS § 508.030)
A person is guilty of assault in the fourth degree when (a) he intentionally or wantonly causes physical injury to another person; or (b) with recklessness, causes physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument. Assault 4th Degree is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a term of imprisonment of not more than 12 months in jail.
How We Can Help
As you can see, there are many different factors involved in an assault charge. This means a competent criminal defense attorney has many angles for attacking the validity of the charge, which could lead to an amendment of the charge to one of a lesser degree.
There are also defenses to assault which can be explored. Even though actions taken in self-defense are intentional conduct, the law recognizes self-defense as a complete defense to an assault charge. You may also have been acting in defense of others.
Certain mental states, such as extreme emotional disturbance also may provide grounds for a reduction in the charge.
An aggressive defense will be formulated and appropriate motions filed with the court. In short, we will provide you with legal representation based on both experience and competence and which will lead to the best possible result in your case.
We take seriously what could be serious business for you and your family. Contact Lexington, Kentucky defense attorney Dan Carman by phone at (859) 685-1055 or through the online form here.