25 Sep 23

new york penal code 120 10 assault in the first degree

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Last Updated on: 28th September 2023, 10:19 pm


New York Penal Code 120.10 – Assault in the First Degree

Assault in the first degree is one of the most serious assault charges in New York. It’s classified as a Class B violent felony under New York Penal Law Section 120.10, and carries a potential prison sentence of up to 25 years. Let’s break down what constitutes assault in the first degree, potential defenses, and what the implications are if convicted.

What Constitutes Assault in the First Degree?

There are a few ways assault in the first degree can be charged in New York:

  • Intentionally causing serious physical injury to another person using a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument
  • Intentionally and seriously disfiguring someone permanently
  • Recklessly engaging in conduct that creates a grave risk of death while causing serious physical injury to another person
  • Causing serious physical injury to someone while committing or attempting to commit another felony

So assault in the first degree requires serious physical injury to the victim, which is defined as:

  • Protracted impairment of health
  • Protracted loss or impairment of a bodily function, organ, or mental faculty
  • A substantial risk of death
  • Disfigurement

It also requires intent to cause the serious physical injury, except in cases of ‘depraved indifference’ where the reckless conduct creates a grave risk of death. Using a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument also elevates it to first degree assault.

Penalties If Convicted

Since assault in the first degree is a Class B violent felony, there are strict mandatory minimum sentences if convicted:

  • At least 5 years in prison
  • Maximum sentence of up to 25 years in prison
  • Fine of up to $30,000

Part of the sentence will also include a mandatory term of post-release supervision of at least 2.5-5 years after release from prison. The conviction remains permanently on your criminal record and can affect employment, housing, and other opportunities in the future.

Possible Defenses

There are several legal defenses that a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney may use to fight first degree assault charges, such as:

  • Self-defense – arguing that your actions were justified to protect yourself or someone else from harm
  • Lack of intent – the prosecution can’t prove you intended to cause serious physical injury
  • Misidentification – arguing you weren’t the person who committed the assault
  • Intoxication – you were too impaired to form the requisite intent
  • Mental defect – you lacked criminal responsibility due to mental disease or defect
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An experienced criminal defense lawyer will thoroughly investigate the circumstances and evidence and identify the strongest defenses to get the charges reduced or dismissed. This can include interviewing witnesses, examining medical records, hiring expert witnesses, and more.

Cases of Assault in the First Degree in New York

There have been several notable cases of assault in the first degree prosecuted in New York courts:

These cases illustrate how serious these assault charges are prosecuted in New York courts, with multi-year prison sentences common even for first-time offenders.

Why First Degree Assault Charges Are So Severe

There are a few reasons why assault in the first degree charges are treated so harshly under New York law:

  • Involves intentional infliction of grave physical harm – the perpetrator knowingly endangered human life and health in a significant way.
  • Use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument makes it much more severe.
  • Can cause permanent disability, disfigurement, or loss of life.
  • Often involves premeditation and intent to seriously injure.
  • Considered a “violent” felony due to the egregious nature of the crime.
  • A felony conviction forever damages the victim’s sense of safety and well-being.

First degree assault indicates a perpetrator who poses a serious danger to society. The long mandatory minimum sentences are intended to punish appropriately, deter future crimes, and protect the public from further violence.

Getting Legal Help for First Degree Assault Charges

Due to the serious penalties if convicted, the first step if charged with assault in the first degree should be contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney can advise you of your rights, review the evidence, and start building the strongest defense strategy for your case.

Don’t delay, as time is of the essence – an early consultation and start to the legal defense can greatly help the outcome of the case down the road. Every situation is different, but an attorney may be able to get the charges reduced or even dismissed through effective defense strategies.

While assault in the first degree is a very serious felony charge in New York, there is hope depending on the circumstances. With an experienced legal advocate on your side, it’s possible to avoid the lengthy mandatory minimum sentences and other life-altering consequences of a conviction. Don’t go it alone – get experienced legal help right away.