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Assault in the 1st Degree, RCW 9A.36.011

Assault in the First Degree is defined as acting with the intent to inflict great bodily harm, and 1) using a firearm or any deadly weapon (or such force as is likely to produce great bodily harm or death) or 2) exposing a person to the H.I.V. virus or other destructive substance, 3) assaulting another person and inflicting great bodily harm. The definition of "deadly weapon" has been held to be quite broad, and has included even items such as a pencil.

The penalties for Assault 1st Degree are severe and are almost as high as the penalties for Murder in the Second Degree. The maximum penalty is life in prison and a $50,000 fine. The standard range sentence for a person with no prior criminal history is 93 to 123 months in prison (or roughly 8 to 10 years). In addition there are potential weapons enhancements. Weapons enhancements do not always apply, however, when the manner of charging the offense contains the use of a weapon as one of the elements of the offense.

First Degree Assault is a "specific intent crime" which means that defenses such as voluntary intoxication, diminished capacity, and insanity apply. Other common defenses that are used in First Degree Assault cases include self-defense, defense of others, mistaken identity, etc.

In Assault First Degree cases, the doctrine of "transferred intent" often applies. This doctrine spells out that once the prosecutor proves an intent to inflict great bodily harm to a specific person, that intent can be "transferred" to additional persons. For example, if a suspect discharges a firearm toward one individual and misses and hits another person, that is treated as Assault First Degree (rather than as an accident.)

Another way to commit Assault First Degree is by administering, exposing, or transmitting the HIV virus to someone with the intent to inflict great bodily harm. The term “expose” includes any unsafe sexual practice.

If a person is charged with Assault First Degree, the jurors are occasionally given the option of convicting of the lesser charge of Assault in the 2nd Degree or Assault Fourth Degree as well as not guilty. For more on this offense visit our pages on assault and domestic violence.