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Sacramento Criminal Attorney at the Law Offices of Wing & Parisi

Assault With a Deadly Weapon in California

Assault with a deadly weapon (AWD) is a very serious charge defined by Penal Code 245 as an assault that is committed either with a “deadly weapon,” excluding firearms, or with such force that it’s likely to produce great bodily injury. Getting charged with such requires the assistance of an experienced Sacramento criminal attorney.

There are several elements that must be proved in an AWD case:

  • The act was likely to result directly in the “application of force” to another person – The “application of force” itself may be any harmful or offensive touching. Even a slight touch done in a rude or offensive context may be charged as assault. It also does not have to be done directly by the hand or physicality of the accused; another object may be the only point of contact. Also note the specific use of the word “likely.” The accused individual does not actually have to have succeeded in acting against the other person. All that is required is that the act was probably going to result in force against another person.
  • The application of force was done with a deadly weapon – The definition of a deadly weapon is somewhat vague. Any object that is used in a way that makes it capable of and likely to produce death or great bodily harm can be considered a deadly weapon. For example, a screwdriver is simply a construction tool, but if you try to stab another person with it, it becomes a deadly weapon. Body parts are not considered a deadly weapon, but if an assault is committed with fists or feet that was likely to produce great bodily harm, this assault may be considered an AWD. Great bodily injury also has a vague definition as “significant or substantial physical injury.” This gives the court a lot of discretion in determining whether an assault produced great bodily harm.
  • The accused was fully aware of this
  • The act was done willfully – Doing something willfully means doing it on purpose. You do not need to have intended to break the law, hurt anyone, or gain any advantage from the act. Simply intending to do the act that was done is enough to satisfy this element. Even if you didn’t intend to really hurt the other person, if you meant to do the act that did or could have caused the “application of force” against him or her, this satisfies this element.
  • The accused was aware that the act may lead to the “application of force” – This doesn’t mean there had to be the intent of applying force, just the understanding that the act may result in the force being applied. This is a bit confusing, but an example may help. If a pedestrian is running away from a car that is following him or her, the driver may be accused of assault with a deadly weapon with the weapon being the car. Even though the driver did not actually hit the person and may even to not have intended to hit the person, it is possible that the car could have hit the person and thus there was a reasonable likelihood that there would be an “application of force.”
  • The accused had the ability to commit the assault

If a firearm is used, the charge will be assault with a firearm, which is a more serious crime with higher penalties. If you have been charged with assault with a deadly weapon, make sure you contact an experienced Sacramento criminal attorney for legal assistance.

Penalties for Assault Charges in California

In the state of California, AWD charges are what is known as a “wobbler,” meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony, depending on the circumstances. A Sacramento criminal attorney can explain more in detail depending on your circumstance but some elements that are taken into account when deciding whether to seek misdemeanor or felony charges include:

  • The type of “deadly weapon” used
  • Whether an actual injury was incurred and the severity of such injury
  • Whether the victim was a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or other protected person

Potential misdemeanor penalties may include:

  • Misdemeanor probation
  • Up to one year in county jail
  • A fine of up to $1000

The potential penalties for a felony AWD include:

  • Felony probation
  • Two, three, or four years in state prison – If the victim is a protected person (firefighter, police or peace officer, etc.) while on duty and the accused person was aware of the victim’s job, the potential sentence is one three, four, or five years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Call Sacramento criminal attorney for Legal Defense in California

If it can be shown that any necessary elements of the assault with a deadly weapon charge are untrue, it may decrease the likelihood of a conviction which your Sacramento criminal attorney will explain. The most common defenses used in court against assault with a deadly weapon charges include:

  • You did not actually use a deadly weapon or force likely to cause great bodily harm.
  • You did not perform the act in question with the required intent
  • You were acting in self-defense or the defense of another person
  • You were wrongly accused

It is important to seek legal representation from an experienced and knowledgeable Sacramento criminal attorney as soon as possible after being charged with assault with a deadly weapon. Having a motivated and expert legal team on your side can help you get through the complicated legal system and can help you fight your charges.

There’s no substitute for a strong Sacramento criminal attorney, call the Law Office of Wing & Parisi at (916) 441-4888.

Contact us online or call at (916) 441-4888 for a free and confidential initial consultation, available in Spanish. We appear in state and federal courts in the Sacramento and Davis communities as well as throughout Placer and San Joaquin counties.


If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, contact the Law Office of Wing & Parisi for free consultation.