Assault in the First Degree: New York Penal Law Section 120.10

New York Domestic Violence Arrest, Crimes & Laws

Other than killing another person, First Degree Assault, pursuant to New York Penal Law 120.10, is the most serious crime found within the pages of the New York criminal code. A “violent crime” by definition, a sentence and punishment for this offense is minimally five years in a New York State prison. In fact, even without a criminal record, an arrest and ultimate conviction for Assault in the First Degree can result in as much as 25 years in jail. Although a New York criminal lawyer or Assault attorney can analyze the evidence against you as well as your criminal history, the sentence for PL 120.10 can land anywhere along the spectrum above. If there is any case where you need to mount a vigorous defense – one based on law, procedure, evidence or mitigation – this is it.

First Degree Assault: New York Penal Law 120.10(1)

In the simplest of terms, all intentional New York Assault cases stem from the same general concept. That is, you are guilty of Assault in any degree if with the intent to cause a physical injury to another person, you in fact cause that type of injury. One of the key factors that differentiate the misdemeanor variety of Assault (Third Degree Assault – New York Penal Law 120.00) from felony First Degree Assault is the injury prosecutors must prove you intended to cause and actually caused. Here, to prove NY PL 120.10, prosecutors must establish (prove beyond a reasonable doubt), that you intended to cause a serious physical injury to another person and in fact caused the same. Further, in order to satisfy the elements of this crime, the serious physical injury that you caused must have been as a result of you using a weapon or dangerous instrument.

While we all likely know what a “physical injury” is, a “serious physical injury” is obviously more significant. More than an impairment of your physical condition, a serious physical injury is one that creates a substantial risk of death, results in disfigurement or long term health impairment.

Another critical element of the statute is that your actions can’t merely be born from fists, but be caused by either a “weapon” or “dangerous instrument.” Like the terms above, a weapon is something you are probably familiar with (a firearm or gravity knife for example), but the latter term is defined by law. An instrument is considered dangerous if in the manner in which it is used it is readily capable of causing death or a serious physical injury. This instrument could be the shoe on your foot, the stool at a bar or a vehicle you drive. It’s not so much the instrument (within reason), but the manner it is used and the damage it can cause. To read more about these elements and the analysis of statues and cases that define them, review the New York Assault Information Page above and the Assault section of the linked there.

As dreadful and terrifying as a charge of First Degree Assault may be, an allegation of wrongdoing is not proof of criminal activity. An impassioned defense and detailed approach to the offense is essential. Are there any independent witnesses not related to either party? Is there any video of what occurred? Was a 911 call made? If so, who made it? Was the instrument recovered? If so, was it legally recovered such as through a search warrant? Did the prosecution overcharge the crime? In other words, there may be an injury and one that appears serious to a layperson, but is it serious as defined by law?

Whatever the evidence, identifying your defense as early in the process as possible is arguably the most important step. Whether detectives are just beginning their investigation or there has been an arrest, you and your criminal lawyer must address whether you want to talk to law enforcement or not (be careful…what you say can and will be used against you), begin securing and preserving evidence and ascertain how bail will be paid should it be set by the court. Further, because your arraignment (when you first see a judge) has the potential to set the stage for future actions, you and your criminal defense attorney should determine or at least begin to discuss if you should exercise your right to testify in the Grand Jury.

The questions and issues in any case, especially one as serious as a First Degree Assault arrest, are numerous. The potential for mistake if not handled properly are enormous. Educate yourself on the law, take the steps to protect your future and begin your defense before your future, liberty and family is compromised further.

Call the New York Assault defense lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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