Home Blog 3rd Degree Assault (What It Is And How It Works: Overview)

3rd Degree Assault (What It Is And How It Works: Overview)

What is 3rd Degree Assault?

What is an example of 3rd degree assault?

What are the essential elements you should know!

Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!

Let’s define third-degree assault and see how it works!

Are you ready?

Let’s get started!

What Is 3rd Degree Assault

In general, 3rd degree assault refers to a criminal charge when a person recklessly causes another person to fear the infliction of serious bodily injuries or recklessly causes another person to fear body injuries from the use of a dangerous weapon.

It’s important to note that the actual legal definition of assault 3rd degree should be considered based on the applicable law to an event considered an assault.

Assault crimes are generally classified in various degrees depending on their seriousness.

As such, assault in the “third degree” is the least serious of the different degrees of assault (although the assault is a serious crime in itself).

For a person to be found guilty of assault 3, the prosecutor must only prove that the offender was reckless in causing another person to fear bodily harm (the bar to prove the “intention” is lower).

To better understand the meaning of assault in the 3rd degree, it’s worth defining the term assault and then understanding the criminal classification of crimes.

Assault Meaning

Assault refers to an intentional act where the offender causes the victim to fear imminent bodily injuries or harm.

Assault can also refer to instances when a person touches another person in an offensive manner.

When there is the commission of assault, the offender may violate criminal laws and be punished accordingly but may also be held liable to compensate the victim’s damages in a civil court.

As such, assault can give rise to both a criminal offense or intentional tort under civil tort laws.

Crime Classification

There are many states that divided the assault crime in various degrees depending on the seriousness and severity of the act.

Here are the different assault crime classifications that you may find in various states:

  • 1st degree assault
  • 2nd degree assault
  • 3rd degree assault

The lower the “degree”, the more serious is the crime.

For instance, 1st degree assault is when a person “intentionally” inflicts fear of bodily injury or harm to another with or without the use of a weapon.

Assault in the 2nd degree refers to an instance when a person “knowingly” inflicts fear of bodily injury or harm to another again with or without a deadly weapon.

Finally, assault in the 3rd degree refers to when a person “recklessly” inflicts fear of bodily harm to another with or without a dangerous weapon.

3rd Degree Assault Definition

What does assault in the 3rd degree mean from a legal perspective?

To understand the statutory definition of an “Assault 3” type of crime, you must read the criminal laws of the state where the assault took place.

The definition that I provide here is for the general understanding of a third-degree assault crime.

My definition of 3rd-degree assault is as follows:

A person recklessly causes another person to fear imminent bodily injuries with or without the use of a weapon

For instance, the statutory or “legal definition” of assault in the third degree in Denver is:

  • When a person knowingly or recklessly “caused” bodily injury to another person
  • Caused bodily injury with criminal negligence 
  • Had the “intention” to injure another, annoy, threaten, alarm, harm, throw object, come into contact with bodily fluid, toss something etc

In New York, under the New York Penal Law, assault in the third degree is when:

  • When a person has the intent to cause physical injury or causes such injury to such person (or third person)
  • A person recklessly causes physical injury to another person 
  • A person causes physical injury with criminal negligence by means of a weapon or dangerous instrument 

It’s important to consult a criminal attorney to understand the actual meaning of “assault” in the 3rd degree based on the applicable criminal or penal laws.

Compared To 1st And 2nd Degree Assault

When you consider 3rd degree assault in relatin to 1st degree or 2nd degree assault charges, it represents the “least” serious assault charge that can be filed.

For a person to be accused of 1st degree assault, he or she must have acted in a deliberate and very intentional manner.

In other words, the offender had a clear intention to utter words or act in a way that would clearly cause the victim to fear for her life, fear bodily injuries, or some form of physical attack.

When a person is accused of 2nd degree assault, it generally means that the person knowingly inflicted fear in another person leading them to subjectively believe that they are at risk of being physically harmed.

As you can see, assault in the first or second degree involves some form of intentional or deliberate act on the part of the defendant.

However, 3rd degree assault is a type of crime where a person causes another to fear bodily injury through their reckless behavior (whether or not the offender had the intention for that to happen).

In essence, the level of “intention” for a 3rd degree assault crime is the lowest 

Wobbler Crimes

It’s possible that third degree assault charges be considered as a “wobbler” crime or hybrid offenses.

In other words, the prosecutor will have the option of charging the accused as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the analysis of the case, background of the offender, or other factors.

For example, a person without any criminal background committing an assault III crime may end up being charged as a misdemeanor.

On the other hand, a person with a long criminal background, or under probation, or due to aggravated circumstances committing assault in the 3rd degree may be charged as a felony.

Being charged as a felony means that the possible punishment and consequences of a conviction can be much worse compared to a misdemeanor charge.

In general, the prosecutor may issue an assault 3 charge as a felony when:

  • The defendant has a past conviction for assault 
  • The defendant intended to cause very serious bodily harm to the victim
  • The defendant used a very deadly weapon to assault the victim
  • The victim was a member of the law enforcement, police, a lawyer, judge, or someone having a quality the law intends to protect 

Legal Defenses

What legal defenses can you present against a “3rd degree assault” charge?

Just like any other crime, for the prosecutor to successfully prosecute a 3rd degree assault crime, it must prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed the crime and had the intention to commit the crime, did not care of the consequences or was reckless.

In the case of a 3rd degree assault, a defendant may invoke the following defense arguments:

  • It did not commit the act that caused the victim to fear bodily injuries
  • It acted in self-defense
  • The defendant’s conduct was not “reckless”

Bear in mind that you should consult a defense attorney for legal advice and representation if you are dealing with an accusation as the consequences of a conviction can be very serious.

It may be also possible to argue that the accused was under the effects of alcohol or drugs leading to his or her involuntary intoxication.

Depending on the particular nature of the case, different types of defenses can be raised to achieve an acquittal or to lessen the possible sentence.

3rd Degree Assault Punishment

Assault in the third degree is punishable by law but the punishment for a level 3 assault is less serious than the punishment for a 1st or 2nd degree assault.

Just like the definition of assault may vary from one state to another, the punishment for assault may also vary from one state to another.

As a result, to have a proper understanding of the possible punishment for assault, it’s important to call a defense attorney who understands the applicable criminal laws.

Generally speaking, many states in the US classify 3rd degree assault as a Class A misdemeanor punishable as follows:

  • Jail time of up to a year 
  • Fine up to a $1,000

Again, you may have other states that may punish assault with more time in jail or heavier fines, this is just to give you an average ballpark figure.

Since assault is possibly classified as a “Class A misdemeanor”, it means that it’s classified as the most serious type of misdemeanor type of crime. 

On the other hand, 2nd and 1st degree assault charges are classified as possibly felony charges and as such the punishments also are more serious.

3rd Degree Assault Example

What are some examples of 3rd degree assault?

The fact is that there are many behaviors that can lead to a possible assault 3 charges.

Here are a few instances when an assault charge can be filed against another:

  • The offender threatens to stab the victim
  • The offender threatens to severely beat up the victim
  • The offender uses a knife and threatens the victim of bodily harm
  • In a bar fight, the offender threatens to injure the other 
  • Road rage leading to assault 
  • Domestic violence 
  • Altercations at the workplace 
  • Altercations on the street 
  • The offender threatens to hurt the victim’s children

As you can see, the common denominator here is that a person is threatening to cause another physical injury or harm.

Third Degree Assault Takeaways 

So there you have it folks!

What is third degree assault?

In the United States, every state has criminal laws intended to punish individuals committing “assault” on another.

As such, a person accused of assault third degree can be found guilty before a state court and sentenced to serve time in jail and pay harsh fines.

There are many instances that can lead to a person being charged with a “third degree assault” crime such as domestic violence, at the workplace, between friends or ex-partners, and so on.

Assault is a type of crime where a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes another person to fear bodily harm.

Depending on the intent level, the assault charge may be classified as 1st degree, 2nd degree, or 3rd degree assault.

Assault charged as 3rd degree is the one that requires the least amount of “intent” for the prosecutor to prove and is the least serious among the three degrees of assault charges.

However, a conviction on assault “third degree” can lead to possible jail time, fines, criminal record, and other consequences like the loss of a job or inability to get into a professional order.

If you are facing assault charges, it’s advisable to seek the advice of a criminal lawyer to assess your legal options, defenses, and understand the consequences of the accusation.

I hope this article helped you answer the question such as what is assault in the 3rd degree and its consequences.

Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

3rd Degree Assault Meaning

  • Assault is a type of action or conduct where a person threatens another to cause bodily harm, acts in a menacing manner towards another, uses words or things to cause another person to feel afraid of physical attack or injury 
  • Assault is a crime that can be classified in different degrees (depending on the criminal law classification of the state) such as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree
  • 3rd degree is the lowest level assault charge that may be filed by a prosecutor where the person acted in a reckless manner leading another person to get scared and fear physical harm
  • A person convicted of an assault 3 crime may end up in jail, pay important fines, get probation, deal with a restraining order, community service or other type of punishment based on the circumstances of the case 
1st degree assault 
2nd degree assault
3rd degree felony
3rd degree sexual assault
Aggravated assault
Arrest warrant 
Assault vs battery 
Assault lawyer
Compensatory damages 
Crime victim compensation 
Criminal lawyer 
Domestic violence 
Double jeopardy 
Harassment charges 
Miranda Rights
Molestation definition 
Police report 
Press charges meaning 
Rape laws 
Reckless endangerment 
Rome and Juliet law
Simple assault
Assault definition
Battery definition 
Beyond reasonable doubt
Burden of proof
Criminal law 
Criminal procedure
Defense lawyer
Enhanceable offenses 
Felonious assault
Felony charge
Intentional tort 
Legal defense 
Misdemeanor charge 
Tort law 
Tort liability 
Violent crimes 
Willful misconduct

Editorial Staffhttps://lawyer.zone
Hello Nation! I'm a lawyer and passionate about law. I've practiced law in a boutique law firm, worked in a multi-national organization and as in-house counsel. I've been around the block! On this blog, I provide you with golden nuggets of information about lawyers, attorneys, the law and legal theories. Enjoy!


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