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NY Penal Law § 120.10: Assault in the First Degree

June 26, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

NY Penal Law § 120.10: Assault in the First Degree

Assault is a criminal offense in which an individual intentionally or recklessly harms another person. There are several degrees of assault that relate directly to the severity of the injuries inflicted on the victim as well as the means by which the assault is carried out. Of all the assault charges in the New York Penal Code, assault in the first degree is the most severe type. In actuality, it is one of the most serious violent crimes that you can commit.  In order for you to be convicted of assault in the first degree under New York Penal Code § 120.10, the prosecutor must demonstrate the following:


  • That you injured  a person by use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, and you did so with the intent to cause serious injury, or
  • That you injured a person , and you did so with the intent to seriously and permanently disfigure
  • That you seriously injured a person, and you inflicted the injuries in a manner that showed you had a depraved indifference to human life
  • That you seriously injured a person during the course of the commission of a felony offense


This crime is a class B felony offense.


An Example

At the end of a heated argument they had inside a nightclub, a man followed a woman outside the bar.  Once outside, the man hit the woman in the face with a broken bottle. The woman sustained injuries from the blow. Regardless of the fact that the woman’s injuries were not serious, the man could face prosecution for assault in the first degree.  This is because it can be inferred that this man had the intent to seriously and permanently disfigure the woman by throwing a broken bottle at her face.


Offenses that are Related

Menacing in the first degree: New York Penal Code § 120.13

Reckless endangerment in the first degree: New York Penal Code § 120.25


Possible Defenses

In order to be convicted of assault in the first degree, it is necessary to demonstrate 

  1. that you used a deadly weapon to commit the assault, 
  2. that the victim sustained serious injuries as a result, 
  3. that you clearly had a depraved indifference for human life, or
  4. that the assault took place during the commission of a felony offense. 

The criminal code has very detailed definitions for the terms “serious physical injury,” “deadly weapon,” and “felony.” If the prosecutor is not able to demonstrate the necessary elements of the crime of assault in the first degree, then the prosecutor will have a tough time securing a conviction for this charge.


The Sentence

The maximum sentence you could be facing for being convicted of assault in the first degree is up to 25 years in prison, because it is a class B felony. Assault in the first degree is also categorized as a violent felony offense. As such, if you are convicted, you will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years behind bars. Part of your sentence may also include a probation term. The mandatory probation sentence for a felony offense is a 5 year term.



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