Assault - 3rd Degree

Third Degree Assault is a very commonly charged misdemeanor offense in Colorado. It is a state level charge. Here is the definition from the Colorado Revised Statutes, 18-3-204:

Assault in the Third Degree 18-3-204

  1. A person commits the crime of assault in the third degree if:
    • (a) The person knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another person or with criminal negligence the person causes bodily injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon.

“Bodily injury” has a specific legal definition as well. It is defined in Colorado Revised Statutes 18-1-901(c): “Bodily injury” means physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical or mental condition.

At its simplest, third degree assault is essentially where an actor causes pain or injury to another person without any legal justification, such as self defense. Evidence of physical injury is not required to prove the charge. For example, if Person A hits Person B in the face, yet there is no evidence of bruising, bleeding, or physical marks on Person B’s face, Person A can still be charged with third degree assault if Person A experienced any pain.

Also included in the charge of third degree assault is the requirement of a culpable mental state. This is a legal term that means that the act of assault must be accompanied by either a “knowingly” or “recklessly” state of mind on the part of the actor. Quite simply, this means that the actor knew what he was doing, or should have known that his actions could cause harm or injury to someone else. Most of the time, this mental state can be inferred by the actions of the actor. For example, if Person A squares up in a fighting stance with Person B, pulls his fist back, and brings it forward in an obvious punching motion and connects with Person B’s face, we can infer that it was Person A’s objective to assault Person B, even though he may not have announced verbally his intention to do so.

Third degree assault is a misdemeanor offense in Colorado. This means that it is punishable by a fine, probation or a county jail sentence. It is not a felony offense. A felony is a more serious state crime that can result in a prison sentence to the Department of Corrections. Assault can rise to felony level if the actor uses a deadly weapon, and/or causes “serious bodily injury” to another person. “Serious bodily injury” means bodily injury which, either at the time of the actual injury or at a later time, involves a substantial risk of death, a substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement, a substantial risk of protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body, or breaks, fractures, or burns of the second or third degree. (C.R.S. 18-1-901) A case can be initially charged as third degree assault when it is first reported, but if the injuries sustained to the victim later rise to “serious bodily injury,” the case can be up charged to a felony.

Third degree assault is a very common charge associated with domestic violence cases. If one partner in a relationship lays hands on the other partner and causes minor injury, the first partner will most likely be charged with third degree assault. If charged as an act of domestic violence, the actor may face sentencing enhancements that could require domestic violence treatment, as well as a prohibition for using or possessing firearms. A defendant in an assault case may be restrained from having contact with the victim if the court issues a mandatory protection order. This typically happens at the defendant’s first court date.

The severity of penalties a person faces usually depends on the nature of the assault and the criminal history of the actor. It also depends on the district attorney’s probability of being able to prove the case at trial beyond a reasonable doubt. Often, victims of assault will be allowed to consult with the district attorney about the proposed resolution of the criminal case against the person who assaulted them. This does not usually mean that the victim has final approval over how a district attorney wants to resolve the case, but they are often consulted, and the district attorney can take the position of the victim into account.

Depending on the circumstances, there can be some challenges for a third degree assault case to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. As mentioned earlier, there does not have to be evidence of injury for an actor to be charged with assault. There can sometimes be a “he said, she said” dynamic in the case where the only evidence of an assault occurring is what the persons involved report in their statements. Sometimes, in the case of a fight, it may be hard to establish who the initial aggressor was depending on the information available to law enforcement.

There may also be legal defenses to third degree assault. Self defense is the most common. If Person A initially punches Person B, Person B is entitled to defend himself by punching person A, and would have an excellent defense to the charges of third degree assault. Person A can be charged with third degree assault because he was the initial aggressor. There are other defenses available too, such as defense of others, or defense of property.

Even though third degree assault is a misdemeanor, it is still a very serious charge that can affect a person’s criminal record and result in jail time. If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges of third degree assault, or any other criminal offense, you need an experience attorney on your side. We understand that sometimes bad things happen to good people. Contact the skilled attorneys at Hebets & McCallin. We have the experience to help you defend your freedom.