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Assault in the 2nd Degree, RCW 9A.36.021

Assault in the Second Degree is defined as 1) intentionally assaulting another person and recklessly inflicting substantial bodily harm; or 2) intentionally causing substantial bodily harm to an unborn child by intentionally inflicting injury to the mother; or 3) assaulting another person with a deadly weapon; or 4) exposing another person to poison or any other destructive or noxious substance with the intent to inflict bodily harm; or 5) assaulting another person with the intent of committing a felony, or 6) knowingly inflicting bodily harm on another person which the intent of causing pain equal to torture, or 7) assaulting another person by strangulation or suffocation. (For other levels of this crime, visit our assault page.)

The most common way criminal defense lawyers see Assault 2nd Degree charges is through numbers 1, 3, or 7. Let's look at each one of those scenarios.

Recklessly Inflicting Substantial Bodily Harm

RCW 9A.36.021(1) defines Assault Second Degree as intentionally assaulting another person and thereby recklessly causing substantial bodily harm. An example of this would be when a suspect punches another person and ends up fracturing a bone. The intent wasn't necessarily to fracture a bone, but the law says if the punch was intentional, it is sufficient to prove that the fracture was caused by mere recklessness.

Assault with a Deadly Weapon

RCW 9A.36.021(3) defines Assault Second Degree as assaulting another person with a deadly weapon. This is pretty clear cut when the weapon in question is a firearm or a knife, but can be a little bit vague otherwise. The term "deadly weapon" calls for consideration of the way in which the instrument was used or threatened to be used. For example an ax handle is a deadly weapon if the suspect is swinging it at someone's head, but it wouldn't be a deadly weapon if the suspect were jabbing a person with the end of it.

Assault by Strangulation

RCW 9A.36.021(7) defines Second Degree Assault as assaulting another person by strangulation. "Strangulation" is means to compress a person's neck with the intent of interfering with a person's ability to breath or cutting off their blood flow. This type of allegation is particularly common in domestic violence cases, and such allegations have special sentencing guidelines. In Spokane it is common for the prosecutors to call a nurse as an expert witness to testify about strangulation and to attempt to educate the jury. At our firm, we have similarly hired expert witnesses to review photographs and examine medical records.