Assault with a Deadly Weapon PC 245(a)(1)

California law specifies a wide range of assault and battery charges. Your specific charges ultimately depend on the circumstances surrounding the incident that occurred. One of the most serious assault crimes you can be accused of committing is assault with a deadly weapon.

Assault with a deadly weapon, as characterized by California penal code 245(a)(1), is complex, and the legal implications can be difficult to decipher. Conviction of this crime can result in a lengthy prison sentence, fines, and continued restrictions after release. If you’ve been charged with assault with a deadly weapon, avoiding conviction is imperative. Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone.

The dedicated criminal defense lawyers at Gressley & Donaldson can review the details of your case, explain your legal options, and help chart the best course forward. When you’re ready to mount an aggressive defense to protect our future, we’re here for you. In the meantime, keep reading to learn everything you need to know about assault with a deadly weapon charges in California.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to navigate your case alone. The dedicated attorneys at Gressley & Donaldson have the resources and experience necessary to mount an effective defense. Contact our law firm to schedule a consultation.

What Is Assault with a Deadly Weapon California Penal Code Section PC 245(a)(1)?

Assault with a deadly weapon under California penal code section 245(a)(1) is a statute within the larger assault and battery chapter of the California Penal Code. It is defined as “any person who commits an assault upon the person of another with a deadly weapon or instrument.”

PC 245(a)(1) essentially refers to a crime in which an individual unlawfully attempts to cause a violent injury to another person by using a deadly weapon or a force likely to produce great bodily harm. While this definition is fairly straightforward, it still leaves a few questions unanswered.

Defining Assault in California

In the context of assault with a deadly weapon under California Penal Code Section 245(a)(1), assault is defined as the intentional attempt to physically injure another person or produce great bodily harm. It refers to the unlawful act of attempting to harm someone with a dangerous instrument, whether it be an object or force, capable of causing severe injury or death.

Defining Deadly Weapon in California 

It should go without saying that to be charged with assault with a deadly weapon in California, the court must prove that a deadly weapon was used in the assault. But what exactly does the statute mean by “deadly weapon”?

In this context, a deadly weapon is broadly defined as any object, instrument, or weapon that is inherently capable of causing serious injury or death, or an object that is used in a manner likely to produce great bodily harm. This definition encompasses a wide range of items, including but not limited to knives, bludgeons, firearms, vehicles, or any other object that, when used in a certain way, will produce great bodily injury or death.

It’s important to note that the determination of whether an object qualifies as a deadly weapon often depends on how it is used or intended to be used in a particular situation. This means that even an everyday object such as a golf club, ice pick, or padlock can be considered a deadly weapon if it is employed with the intent to cause harm—and has the potential to inflict serious injury or death.

What if I Didn’t Have a Weapon?

You may be surprised to learn that individuals may still be charged (and convicted) with a violation of California Penal Code Section 245(a)(1) even if they didn’t use a physical object in the assault. For example, if an individual strangles someone so severely that it threatens their life, the perpetrator’s hands may be considered a “deadly weapon”. For this to occur, however, there needs to be a realistic threat of great bodily harm and death.

Penalties for Assault with a Deadly Weapon in California

The penalties for assault with a deadly weapon in California, as outlined in Penal Code Section 245(a)(1), vary depending on the specific circumstances of the offense. Assault with a deadly weapon is generally considered a “wobbler” offense, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on factors such as:

  • The severity of the assault
  • The criminal history of the defendant
  • The injuries sustained by the victim
  • Whether or not the victim was an on-duty police officer, firefighter, or EMT

If charged as a misdemeanor, potential penalties may include up to one year in county jail and fines. If charged as a felony, the consequences can be more severe, including imprisonment in state prison for a specified period, fines, and other legal consequences. Typically, a felony conviction of assault with a deadly weapon in California results in a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.

However, the length of the prison sentence may depend on various factors, including whether a firearm was used in the assault, the extent of injuries inflicted, and the defendant’s criminal history, including how many strikes they’ve incurred under California’s three strikes law.

Driver’s License Suspension for Assault with a Deadly Weapon in California

An assault with a deadly weapon conviction can trigger a suspension of your driver’s license. If you are a convicted of a felony assault with a deadly weapon charge, and the court finds that the weapon or instrument used to commit the assault was a vehicle, then the Department of Motor Vehicles is required to issue a lifetime driver’s license suspension under VC 13351.5. A misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon charge involving a vehicle does not carry a driver’s license suspension.

If you have been convicted of felony assault with a deadly weapon and suffered a lifetime driver’s license revocation, a felony reduction of the conviction to a misdemeanor can restore your driving privileges.

Defenses for Assault with a Deadly Weapon in California

Remember: Just because you’ve been charged with a crime doesn’t mean you’re guilty of committing it. There are many legitimate defenses to assault charges, and your criminal defense attorney can help you explore the best strategy for proving your innocence. We will discuss a few of these arguments below.

There Was No Assault

Perhaps the simplest way to avoid a conviction is to demonstrate that no assault occurred. When reviewing the evidence, our criminal defense lawyers will assess whether the incident meets the legal definition of assault and whether there’s any proof that you were the perpetrator. If we can prove that there is no great bodily harm involved with the injury or that the injury was unintentional, we may be able to get the charges dropped.

The Weapon Used Was Not Deadly

As we discussed earlier, a weapon in the context of California Penal Code 245 can be defined as a machine gun, a knife, a fist, or even a dog that’s trained to kill. However, just because an item is used as a weapon, it doesn’t mean that the weapon itself meets the definition of ‘deadly” in the eyes of the law. For example, if you use a coffee cup as a bludgeon, it’s fairly obvious that a case could be made for the coffee cup to be considered deadly. However, if that same coffee cup is used to splash water on the victim, instead of as a bludgeon, an assault with a deadly weapon charge would be absurd.

You Were Acting in Self-Defense

California makes exceptions for individuals who act in self-defense. According to the law, an individual is not guilty of assault or even murder if they:

  • Reasonably believed that they (or someone else) were in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily injury or would suffer great bodily injury or death
  • Reasonably believed that the immediate use of deadly force was necessary to defend against that danger
  • Used no more force than was necessary to defend against the threat

This means that if the victim in a case of assault with a deadly weapon first threatens the defendant in a way that requires the defendant to protect themselves with force, the incident may not be considered assault with a deadly weapon.

For example, let’s say that Bill corners Samantha in an alley with a knife. Samantha responds by discharging her firearm into Bill’s foot and fleeing. If Samantha had no other option but to use her weapon in defense, Bill can’t say that he was assaulted with a deadly weapon because Samantha was acting in self-defense.

Sentencing for Assault with a Deadly Weapon in California

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The sentencing process for assault with a deadly weapon in California involves several steps, and the severity of the sentence depends on various factors and the specific circumstances of the incident. In a typical case, however, the defendant and their lawyer will typically move through the following stages:

  • Categorization as misdemeanor or felony. Because assault with a deadly weapon is typically a wobbler offense, it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The prosecution will decide how to charge the offense based on the facts of the case.

    • Criminal charges and arraignment. The defendant is formally charged, and an arraignment takes place. During the arraignment, the defendant is informed of the charges and enters a plea, which can be guilty, not guilty, or no contest.

    • Sentencing hearing. The court holds a sentencing hearing where both the prosecution and defense present arguments. The judge will consider factors such as the severity of the offense, any injuries inflicted, the use of a firearm, and the defendant’s criminal history.

  • Sentencing decision. Based on the information presented, the judge determines the appropriate sentence. Sentences for assault with a deadly weapon can include imprisonment, fines, probation, or a combination of these penalties.

If you’ve already gone through the sentencing process, and you’ve received an undeserved outcome, you may want to consider filing an appeal. Though it can be a lengthy and exhaustive process, a successful appeal will preserve not only your freedom but also your reputation and personal freedoms.

If you need legal representation for an assault with a deadly weapon appeals process, don’t hesitate to contact Gressley & Donaldson. Our law firm has worked with countless clients to file successful appeals on their behalf. Call our law office at (951) 319-3199 to get started.

Appealing an Assault with a Deadly Weapon Conviction in California

To appeal an assault with a deadly weapon conviction in California, our firm typically begins by filing a notice of appeal with the appropriate appellate court on behalf of our client. This notice indicates the intent to challenge the conviction on legal grounds and must be filed within a specified timeframe after the judgment.

Subsequently, the court clerk will compile a record of the trial proceedings, including transcripts of hearings, evidence presented, and relevant documents, which will serve as the basis for the appeal. Both you (the appellant) and the respondent (prosecution) will need to submit written arguments known as appellate briefs and present legal arguments citing case law to support your positions.

The appellate court reviews the trial record, briefs, and any oral arguments, to determine whether legal errors occurred during the trial that may have affected the fairness or legality of the proceedings. The court will then do one of the following:

  • Affirm the conviction
  • Modify the sentence
  • Overturn the conviction

If dissatisfied with the appellate court’s decision, we may consider seeking further review from a higher court, such as the California Supreme Court, especially if we believe that your case has been unfairly reviewed. Keep in mind, however, that the prosecution also has a right to appeal, and if this happens, a lengthy and frustrating court process begins.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’ve been charged with assault with a deadly weapon, you probably have many questions. The best way to get answers is by speaking directly with your attorney. In the meantime, check out the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.

• Can assault with a deadly weapon charge be dropped?

Assault with a deadly weapon charges can potentially be dropped, but it depends on various factors such as the evidence available, witness statements, and legal arguments presented. The decision to drop charges rests with the prosecuting attorney or, in some cases, the court.

• Can you get probation for assault with a deadly weapon in California?

Yes, it is possible to receive probation for assault with a deadly weapon in California. The availability of probation as a sentencing option depends on factors such as the specific circumstances of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, and whether the charge is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony.

• What does “great bodily injury” mean?

“Great bodily injury” refers to a significant physical injury that is more than minor or moderate harm. In the context of criminal charges like assault with a deadly weapon, causing great bodily injury can lead to enhanced penalties.

• What is aggravated assault with a deadly weapon?

Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon typically involves circumstances that increase the seriousness of the offense, such as the intent to cause severe harm, the use of a firearm, or targeting a specific individual due to their status (e.g., a law enforcement officer).

• What weapons does the law consider “deadly”?

As we have previously discussed, a “weapon” doesn’t necessarily need to be a gun or knife to be considered deadly under California Penal Code 245. If a pencil is used to stab, or duct tape is used to suffocate, those items can certainly be defined as “deadly weapons”.

• Can body parts be deadly weapons?

Yes, in certain situations, body parts can be considered deadly weapons. If an individual uses their body in a way that is likely to cause great bodily injury or death, it may be treated as assault with a deadly weapon under specific circumstances.

Gressley & Donaldson: Trusted Criminal Defense Attorneys in California

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Still have questions? Gressley & Donaldson is here to help. Our firm has many years of success when it comes to defending our clients against assault charges of all kinds. Whether you need legal advice or representation in court, our team is prepared to fight for you. Schedule a consultation to start building a robust case for your freedom today.

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We understand that being accused of a crime is one of the most challenging times of your life. Rely on us to advocate for your rights and to give you the defense you deserve.