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Is My Assault a Misdemeanor or Felony?

How Alaska laws define it, and how an attorney may be able to help

In Alaska, “assault” refers to a number of different criminal offenses. The specific facts of a given case will determine the severity of the assault charge. In some cases, a person may face a Class A felony, which carries a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in jail and a $250,000 fine. On the other end of the spectrum, there are assault cases that Alaska considers Class A misdemeanors, for which a person faces no more than one year in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Misdemeanor Assault

Let's start with misdemeanor assault. Alaska statutes defines assault in the fourth degree—the Class A misdemeanor charge—as any of the following three scenarios:

  • Recklessly causing physical injury to another person.
  • Acting with criminal negligence in causing physical injury to another person using a dangerous instrument.
  • Using words or other conduct to recklessly place another person in fear of imminent physical injury.

Based on this last definition, it is possible for someone to be charged with misdemeanor assault even if they never actually make physical contact with another person.

Felony Assault

Felony assault is divided into three subcategories in Alaska: assault in the third degree, a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison; assault in the second degree, a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison; and assault in the first degree, the previously described Class A felony.

Here is a brief rundown of some of the differences between the three felony assault charges:

  • Assault in the third degree covers situations where a person over the age of 18 “causes physical injury to a child” under the age of 12, and that child requires medical attention or the physical injury occurred “on more than one occasion.”
  • Assault in the third degree also covers situations where a person “makes repeated threats to cause death or serious physical injury” to another person or a member of their family.
  • Assault in the second degree, unlike the two lower assault charges, does require proof that a defendant actually caused physical injury to another person, as opposed to merely threatening it.
  • There are three ways to commit assault in the second degree: by intentionally causing physical injury to another person using a dangerous instrument; by "recklessly” causing physical injury; or through “repeated assaults” against another person, even if no specific assault caused a particular physical injury.
  • Assault in the first degree requires proof that a person caused, or intended to cause, not only physical injury, but “serious physical injury” to another person. In this context, a serious physical injury is one that either places the other person at risk of death, disfigurement or the loss of a bodily function; it also includes assault that results in the termination of a pregnancy.

How a Lawyer Can Help You Deal with an Assault Charge

Alaska's assault laws are complex. In some cases, prosecutors may over-charge a defendant by seeking to elevate the degree of an assault allegation. This is where working with an experienced Alaska criminal defense attorney can prove invaluable. An attorney can help ensure the prosecution meets its burden of proof for a specified charge, and in some situations can help you obtain a better outcome than if you attempted to represent yourself in court.

For more information about criminal law, read our overview article.

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