Possible Defenses to a First-Degree Assault ChargeIn Maryland, you can be charged with the crime of first-degree assault if you intentionally cause or try to cause serious physical injury to another person. You can also be charged with first-degree assault if you commit an “assault” with a firearm.

Firearms, according to the Maryland Criminal Code – 3.202 include the use of:

  • a handgun, antique firearm, rifle, shotgun, short-barreled shotgun, or short-barreled rifle.
  • an assault pistol.
  • a machine gun.
  • a regulated firearm.

These firearms are defined in other sections of the Maryland criminal code.

You can also be charged with a first-degree assault if you commit an assault by strangling another person. Strangling is defined as “impeding the normal breathing or blood circulation of another person by applying pressure to the other person’s throat or neck.”

An assault generally means intentionally attempting to touch another person without the consent of that person or placing another person in fear of bodily harm. If you are found guilty of a first-degree assault, you will have a felony on your criminal record. You may also be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.

Serious bodily injury includes a substantial risk of death or causing permanent or protracted serious disfigurement, loss of bodily function of an organ or member, or the impairment of an organ or member.

How does an Annapolis defense lawyer fight first-degree assault charges?

There are many methods and defenses skilled criminal lawyers use when people are charged with a first-degree assault offense. The starting point is that the prosecution must prove the criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt. We do everything we can to find a reasonable doubt. We have three major goals in every criminal case, depending on what’s best for you:

  • One goal is to persuade the prosecution or the judge assigned to your case to dismiss the charges because they know the prosecution cannot prove its case.
  • Another goal is to obtain an acquittal of the charges by a jury of your peers.
  • The third goal is to negotiate a plea to less serious charges that will hopefully keep you out of jail or will impose a much shorter jail sentence than a first-degree assault charge.

Some of the ways we work to achieve these goals include:

  • Arguing self-defense. There are occasions where you do have the right to defend yourself from attacks by another person. There are limitations to using a self-defense argument too. You must be attacked or reasonably believe that you will be attacked immediately. The force you use must be proportional to the attack. If someone raises his arm to strike you, you do have the right to raise your arm and strike first. That’s proportional. You do not have the right to use a weapon such as a gun or a knife that kills or seriously harms your assailant. That force is beyond proportional. It may be a defense that you and the victim agreed to a mutual fight, but probably not, so don’t rely on your membership in a fight club to protect you.
  • Claiming you were defending other people. In addition to defending yourself, you may have the right to defend a loved one or even a friend who is being threatened or who is in immediate danger of an attack. Again, if you use force, then the force must be proportional to the threat or force of the attacker. You should know when force is reasonably proportional and when it is excessive.
  • Proving you had cause. This defense questions whether the victim’s injuries are directly related to your force. If the victim was already suffering from an injury, then as long as you do not aggravate the injury, you should not be criminally accountable for a first-degree assault. If the person you struck has a broken arm when his arm was perfectly fine before you struck him, then you will likely be charged with a first-degree assault.
  • Asserting Constitutional defenses. We assert all your US Constitutional and Maryland Constitutional rights. You have the right to:
    • Cross-examine the witnesses against you. We are skilled at questioning the police and any witnesses who are trying to connect you to the offense. We work to show the witnesses aren’t credible, that their testimony isn’t relevant, or that their version of events doesn’t comport with the facts.
    • Not self-incriminate (give testimony) against yourself. If you gave a confession, it may not be admissible if the police failed to give you your Miranda warnings, failed to follow proper procedures, or forced the confession from you.
    • Ask that any evidence that was obtained without probable cause or without a proper warrant be suppressed. The police need reasons to believe you committed a crime. They usually do need to obtain a warrant from a local judge. Often if the evidence is suppressed by the judge assigned to your case, then the prosecution realizes how weak its case is and considers a dismissal or a plea reduction.

Defendants have other Constitutional rights including the right to a speedy trial. Most importantly, you do have the right to have an attorney represent you. You are not required to defend yourself in court.

At Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, our Annapolis and Ellicott City first-degree assault lawyer has the experience and resources to help you obtain justice. We assert every possible factual and legal defense available on your behalf. We understand when to challenge the prosecution and when to try to work out a solution. I have helped numerous defendants during the past 22 years secure their freedom and their reputation. To discuss a first-degree assault charge or any criminal charge, please call me as soon as you’ve been arrested. You can schedule an appointment by calling 410-271-1892 or filling out our contact form.

And remember: Keep Calm – and Call Drew.