December 2, 2023

Third-degree assault, also known as assault in the third degree, is a serious criminal charge in Missouri that carries potentially severe penalties. But what exactly constitutes third-degree assault? When does an assault become a felony versus a misdemeanor? What are the defenses? This article will provide an in-depth look at third-degree assault charges in Missouri – what they entail, the penalties, and how a criminal justice attorney can help.

What is Considered Third Degree Assault in Missouri?

3rd-degree assault in Missouri, also known as assault in the third degree, is defined as recklessly causing physical injury to another person. It is considered a class A misdemeanor. For a charge of 3rd-degree assault, the prosecution must prove the defendant caused or attempted to cause physical injury to another person recklessly.

Some key aspects of 3rd-degree assault charges include:

  • The assault must result in physical injury. Physical injury is defined as physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.
  • The assault must be committed recklessly. This means conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk of causing harm to others.
  • Third-degree assault does not require the use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.
  • It is a lower-level charge than first-degree or second-degree assault.

Some examples of third-degree assault include punching someone and causing injury, tackling someone recklessly and causing them harm, or throwing an object at a person and injuring them.

What are the Penalties for 3rd Degree Assault in Missouri?

Because third-degree assault can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony, the consequences may differ significantly:

  • Misdemeanor – Up to 1 year in jail OR a fine up to $2,000
  • Felony – Up to 4 years in prison OR a fine up to $5,000

Other potential penalties include probation or restitution to the victim. Having an assault conviction on your criminal record can also impact your ability to find a job, secure housing, or qualify for student loans.

How is 3rd Degree Assault Different from Other Assault Charges in Missouri?

There are four degrees of assault charges in Missouri:

  • First-degree assault – Intentionally inflicting severe physical harm through the use of a lethal weapon or dangerous implement constitutes a Class B felony.
  • Second-degree assault – Recklessly causing serious physical injury or attempting to kill or knowingly causing physical injury by means of a deadly weapon. This is a class C felony.
  • Third-degree assault – Recklessly causing physical injury to another person. This is a class A misdemeanor or class D felony.
  • Fourth-degree assault – Attempting to cause physical injury or recklessly causing physical pain or illness. This is a class A or B misdemeanor.

The main difference with 3rd-degree assault is it does not require proof of intent or motive, only reckless action resulting in injury. It also does not require serious physical injury like 1st or 2nd-degree assault. This makes it a lower offense than other felony assault charges.

When is a 3rd Degree Assault Charge More Likely?

There are certain situations where someone is more likely to face a 3rd-degree rather than 1st or 2nd-degree assault charge:

  • Bar fight resulting in minor injuries
  • Recklessly swinging a golf club and injuring someone
  • Negligently causing injury while texting and driving
  • Hitting someone with an object in anger, resulting in bruising/minor cuts
  • In domestic violence situations not involving deadly weapons

Typically if serious injuries are involved, such as broken bones, stabbings, or head trauma, a prosecutor will pursue 1st or 2nd degree charges instead.

Possible Defenses to Third-Degree Assault Charges

There are several legal defenses that could potentially beat an assault in the third-degree charge:

  • Self-defense – Using reasonable force to protect yourself or others from harm. The key is proving the force was necessary and appropriate.
  • Lack of intent – Since 3rd-degree assault doesn’t require intent, arguing you didn’t intend harm could be a defense.
  • False accusations – The alleged victim is lying or misrepresenting what happened. Can use witnesses and evidence to show innocence.
  • Mistaken identity – You have an alibi, or there is evidence proving you were somewhere else at the time of the assault.
  • Actual innocence – The prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

An experienced Missouri assault lawyer can evaluate the facts of your case and determine the best legal defenses to pursue.

The Importance of a Criminal Defense Lawyer for 3rd-Degree Assault

If you have been charged with assault in the third degree in Missouri, it is critical to retain legal counsel immediately. A conviction can lead to incarceration, monetary penalties, the establishment of a criminal record, and various other repercussions.

Work with a criminal defense firm like Rose Legal Services to protect your rights and aggressively defend you in court. They can often get charges reduced or dismissed through plea bargains or trial verdicts.

Don’t take chances with your future and freedom.