Assault Lawyers

Jason Goldman
February 23, 2024
Assault Lawyer

Table of Contents

New York Assault Crimes: NY Penal Law Article 120 - You Need an Assault Lawyer

When accused of a felony or misdemeanor assault, it is extremely important that you retain a qualified assault lawyer as soon as possible to carefully review the details of the case and establish the strongest possible legal defense. Taking these steps at the beginning of the case can give you a significant leg up. While the process can seem overwhelming and scary, delaying even a few days can be catastrophic. When your livelihood is on the line, you don’t want to take chances.

Definitions, Elements, and Hypothetical Scenarios

There are three different degrees of Assault in New York Penal Law. These offenses are Penal Law sections 120.00, 120.05, and 120.10. Each of these crimes has its unique elements, as well as its own penalties. Defenses can vary based on the offense, and an experienced lawyer who has worked these cases on both sides of the courtroom will give you the biggest advantage.

Third Degree: Definition and Example

As defined in Penal Law 120.00(1), Assault in the Third Degree, a Class “A” misdemeanor, is when a defendant causes physical injury to the targeted individual with the intent to cause harm in such a manner. Penal Law 120.00(2) is similar in the result of physical injury but is caused by recklessness instead of intentional actions.

A common example would be an allegation that a person punched another and the victim then suffered “substantial pain” from that punch. Injuries often include bruising or redness and perhaps some bleeding, but no long-term damage.

Second Degree: Definition and Example

Assault in the Second Degree, Penal Law 120.05, is a significantly more dangerous crime classified as a “violent felony offense.” There are numerous subsections within 120.05, with the most common being class “D” felonies which are charged through the first three subsections. The District Attorney will often prosecute you post-arrest for Penal Law 120.05(1) if they have the requisite evidence for “serious physical injury” caused, and the intent to cause such injury. Additionally, this charge can be brought if a lesser physical injury was caused through the use of a “dangerous instrument” or “deadly weapon” as established through Penal Law 120.05(2).

Additionally, there are other less common charges such as Penal Law 120.05(3) where certain classes of workers like nurses, firefighters, paramedics, and police officers are intentionally physically injured to prevent them from performing their essential services. Penal Law 120.05(4) involves a dangerous instrument being used recklessly to cause a lesser physical injury to an individual. Penal Law 120.05(8) and Penal Law 120.05(9) respectively, require that a defendant intentionally try to cause a physical injury but recklessly cause a more serious one or intentionally cause a physical injury to a person ten years of age or less.

Many other charges could be brought, and the arrest for one does not preclude being charged in a criminal court with other crimes.

Charges could be elevated to this class “D” felony when the injuries are more severe and constitute “serious physical injury,” or where a weapon was used in the commission of the crime, which can include anything from a bottle to a shoe.

First Degree: Definition and Example

The most serious version of these charges is undoubtedly Assault in the First Degree, codified as Penal Law 120.10. Penal Law 120.10 has similar elements to the lesser felony offenses but has the potential for more significant consequences including incarceration for long periods. The most common offense for Penal Law 120.10 involves the intentional infliction of serious physical injuries that cause long-term health consequences or disfigurement.

One commonly invoked violation is Penal Law 120.10(1), which allows for your prosecution in NY if a combination of the two scenarios for Assault in the Second Degree both are present – that is if you intentionally cause a serious physical injury to another person by using a deadly weapon. A person may be charged with this crime if they intend to seriously disfigure a person, or permanently disable them as outlined in Penal Law 120.10(2).


If convicted, the penalties will vary based on the degree and classification of the charge and offense. Assault in the Third Degree is an “A” misdemeanor and could result in one year in the local jail, such as Rikers Island at the most, or lesser penalties such as probation, conditional discharge, fines, community service, and/or surcharges. Assault in the Second Degree is a “D” violent felony and is punishable by time in state prison – a presumptive mandatory two years up to seven years or five years probation. Assault in the First Degree is a “B” violent felony with a sentence of up to 25 years in prison and a minimum of five years in prison.

Related Offenses

Assault is a very general term that can take many different forms within criminal law. In fact, its application in New York is what many other states define as Battery. Due to its broad nature, offenses can come in many different shapes and forms, all of which are separated and specified by law. Some examples within NY Penal Law include Reckless Assault of a Child (PL 120.02), Vehicular Assault (PL 120.03), Gang Assault (PL 120.06), and Assault on a Peace Officer, Police Officer, Firefighter, or Emergency Medical Services Professional (PL 120.08).

Regardless of which offense you've been accused of, there are many consequences of an arrest, including immigration, employment issues, and other licensure issues within professional fields.

Your Case, Your Defense, Your Future

Defenses in these situations are very case specific, and an experienced and competent assault lawyer is necessary to use the details of your case to make the best defense. Some legal defenses to be used are; self-defense, degree of injury not sufficient, improper identification, search, and seizure violations, or coercement / improper statements.

These are general defense concepts that a quality attorney will vet and consider. The importance of a defense attorney who knows the proper steps in handling these cases cannot be overemphasized. At The Offices of Jason Goldman, the attorneys are former prosecutors who have worked these cases on both sides of the courtroom and can implement the best defense and work to protect your livelihood.