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What Is Fourth-Degree Assault in Washington State?

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Assaulting another person can take the form of many acts of violence, from throwing an object at someone to slapping him or her during an argument. However, the state of Washington does not all acts of criminal assault in the same way. Different degrees of assault carry different penalties, such as jail time, probation, and fines. Fourth-degree assault in Washington is the lowest assault charge you can receive, but it also carries significant consequences.

Assault and Domestic Violence in Washington State

Washington defines assault as an attempted battery on another person, which includes the unauthorized application of force or offensive touching of another person’s body. Assault charges often occur in domestic violence cases; domestic violence occurs when one family or household member threatens or commits violence against another family or household member.

Washington categorizes assault charges by degree. First and second-degree assault charges are the most serious, while third and fourth-degree charges are less violent. Fourth-degree assault charges are some of the most common assault charges you can receive – often, if someone accuses you of domestic violence, you can receive a charge for fourth-degree assault as well.

What Is Fourth-Degree Assault?

Washington state law defines fourth-degree assault as an attempted battery on another person that causes contact that a reasonable person would find offensive. To receive a fourth-degree assault charge for domestic violence, the other person must be one of your family or household members.

Despite the serious connotations of the word assault, the injury does not have to occur to the victim for law enforcement officers to arrest you – all the victim has to do is claim to law enforcement that you touched them in an offensive manner.

Potential Penalties for Fourth-Degree Assault

Fourth-degree assault charges are gross misdemeanor, which is more severe than a regular misdemeanor. As a result, the penalties are much more severe than other misdemeanor crime – the state believes a fourth-degree assault charge shows a disregard for human life.

With a fourth-degree assault charge, you could receive a punishment of up to 364 days in jail. In addition, you may also have to pay a hefty fine up to $5,000. You will lose the right to possess a firearm and the police officers may issue a no-contact order, prohibiting you from interacting with the victim.

The Threshold for Fourth-Degree Assault Arrest

It does not take much for police to arrest you on a fourth-degree domestic violence assault charge. If the police arrive to the scene of the alleged assault and have reason to believe that unwanted touching occurred to the victim by you, the officers can place you under arrest. However, the assault must have occurred within the last four hours.

Sometimes, the alleged victim will call the police for assault, even if no crime actually occurred. He or she may think that he or she could drop the charges in the future – but this is not the case. Once a domestic violence arrest is in progress, the alleged victim cannot drop the charges or dismiss the case. Only the prosecution has the power to drop the charges against you, even if the victim refuses to testify.

Do You Need an Attorney for Fourth-Degree Assault Charges?

The moments after an arrest for assault in Washington can be disorienting and scary. However, it is important that you remain calm and cooperate with law enforcement. Remember, do not speak to anyone until you speak to a defense attorney – and you are going to need an attorney for your case.

If you are facing assault charges in Washington state, you need a Tacoma criminal defense attorney to guide you through the process and advocate for your best interests. Using the court-provided attorney or representing yourself can lower your chances of obtaining the best possible outcome. Before you speak to any investigator or prosecutor, contact a defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss the facts of your case.

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