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Maryland Code, Criminal Law, Section 3-202 – Assault in the First Degree

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

Assault in Maryland is divided into degrees. Second Degree Assault is the actual or attempted offensive touching of another person, without that person’s consent. (Maryland Code, Criminal Law, Section 3-203). Assault in the First Degree includes all the elements of Assault in the Second Degree with the added requirements that the defendant used a firearm or caused (or attempted to cause) serious physical injury (Maryland Code, Criminal Law, Section 3-202). The major distinction between the two type of assault is the defendant’s intent. 

In order to convict a defendant of First Degree Assault, the State must prove:

  1. All of the elements of second degree assault, whether an actual or threatened offensive physical contact/harm, and also must prove that:
    1. the defendant used a firearm to commit assault; or
    2. the defendant intended to cause serious physical injury in the commission of the assault.

Serious Physical Injury is defined as an injury that (1) creates a substantial risk of death; or (2) causes serious and permanent or serious and protracted disfigurement or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ (Maryland Code, Criminal Law, Section 3-201(d)).

2. Examples
  1. Physical assault with serious bodily injury - Two patrons of a local bar get into an argument regarding politics. The argument becomes more and more heated, until one of the patrons picks up a beer mug and smashes it against the other patron’s head, causing the mug to shatter. A piece of glass goes into the patron’s eye and he loses the eye.
  2. Attempted Batter with the use of a firearm - A group of protesters stand outside a business establishment chanting and holding signs. The protesters are angry with the actions employees took in not serving a young black man. The group holds up signs demanding racial equality and justice. The group’s chants include, “No Justice – No Peace!” The owner of the establishment comes to the front of the store with a 38 revolver and yells, “if you come near my store, I’ll kill you!” At that point, the owner fires the handgun into the crowd. Luckily, the gunshot misses all the protesters.

Under either example, the defendant can be prosecuted for First Degree Assault under Maryland Code, Criminal Law, Section 3-202.

3. Related Offenses

Assault in the Second Degree - Maryland Code, Criminal Law, Section 3-203

Serious Physical Injury - Maryland Code, Criminal Law, Section 3-201

Reckless Endangerment - Maryland Code, Criminal Law, Section 3-204

4. Defenses

As with any alleged criminal act, there are always defenses as to whether the defendant is the person who committed the act. These defenses related to the identification of the defendant as the perpetrator, or whether the defendant may have an alibi. These defenses always apply.

In reference to this specific charge, the State has a heavy burden to prove the specific intent of the defendant, especially in cases where the allegations involve the infliction of Serious Bodily Harm. It is not sufficient for the State to simply prove that the victim suffered Serious Bodily Harm. The State must prove that the defendant intended to inflict such harm.

As with any assault charge, it is a defense if the defendant committed the assault (1) in defense of others; (2) in defense of his/her habitation; (3) in defense of property; or (3) in self-defense. Each of these defenses have specific elements and constitute a legal justification for the defendant’s assaultive act.

5. Penalties

A conviction under Maryland Code, Criminal Law, Section 3-202 – Assault in the First Degree is a felony and carries maximum penalty of 25 years in prison. 

6. Criminal Defense for the charge of Assault in the First or Second Degree

If you have been accused of Assault in the First or Second Degree, it is important that you speak with an experienced Maryland attorney at once. Many cases involve unique factual circumstances that an attorney can research and evaluate for you. Additionally, even after charges are filed, an attorney may be able to intervene on your behalf to defuse and explain facts and possible effect a resolution outside the court room. Attorney David Felsen has over 32 years of experience in Maryland courts and has established key relationships with prosecutors and law enforcement. Mr. Felsen is recognized as Maryland Super Lawyer, has an AV (Highest) rating, and listed as one of Bethesda Magazine’s Top Lawyer.

For more information about Malicious Destruction of Property, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney David Felsen, at Felsen & Sargent, 600 Jefferson Plaza, Suite 201, Rockville, Maryland 20852, or call 301-251-4010.

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