What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and Felony Weapons Assault Charge?

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What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and Felony Weapons Assault Charge?

In California, assault with a deadly weapon is considered a “wobbler” charge. This means that it can either be a misdemeanor or felony depending on certain factors of the crime. The penalties vary greatly based on which category it falls under.

Assault With A Deadly Weapon

If you are charged with assault with a deadly weapon, you have:

  • Assaulted someone with a deadly weapon
  • Used force strong enough to result in severe physical injury
  • Acted intentionally to cause harm
  • Have acted in a way that a reasonable person would think would cause severe injury
  • Not acted out of self-defense

The prosecution must prove that all of these elements were present at the time of the altercation.

Examples of Deadly Weapons

You may be surprised to learn that things on this list are considered deadly weapons during an assault.

  • Firearm
  • Knife
  • Car
  • Rocks
  • A bottle
  • Blunt objects
  • Your body when used for punching, kicking, biting, etc.

Misdemeanor Penalties

If you are charged with a misdemeanor weapons assault charge, your penalties will be significantly lower.

You may receive:

  • Up to one year in state jail
  • A fine of $1,000
  • 5 years of summary probation

Summary probation is an informal method of probation that doesn’t require much supervision by a probation officer or the court.

It is common to be charged with a misdemeanor if you used a basic firearm or other weapon.

Felony Penalties

Felony assault with deadly weapon charges are typically given when the attacker used a specialized firearm, such as a machine gun or semiautomatic weapon.

If you are charged with a felony, you are facing:

  • Four, eight, or twelve years in prison
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • A strike on your record

California’s Three Strike Policy

Under California’s three-strikes law, once an individual has been charged with their third violent or serious felony, they are required to be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. This policy was created during a time when America was focused on being “tough on crime” by locking up repeat offenders and dissuading others from committing similar offenses.

Assault of Public Officers

If you committed assault with a deadly weapon against someone who is in a protected category, this will lead to enhanced sentencing.

Examples of these groups include:

  • Police officers
  • Firefighters
  • An elected official
  • A prosecutor

If you are found guilty, you could be facing up to 12 years in prison.

Defenses Against Weapons Assault Charges


This defense is commonly used in assault cases. If you can prove that you were acting to defend yourself or others from a violent threat from the victim, this will significantly help your case.

False Allegations

If you have been falsely accused of weapons assault, you can work to clear your name. It is crucial to immediately begin collecting evidence that can prove your whereabouts on the night of the alleged assault.

You Did Not Use A Deadly Weapon

If you did not use a firearm, you may be able to argue that what you used during the altercation would not have had enough force to cause serious injury.

It Was An Accident

You may not have wanted to commit any violent acts, and the victim may have misread your actions as threatening. Acting willfully is a main component of assault with a deadly weapon, and proving you had no intent to cause harm will hurt the prosecutor’s case against you.

How Can A Criminal Defense Attorney Help?

Whether it is a misdemeanor or felony charge, weapons assaults are very serious crimes.

A criminal defense attorney can work with you toward getting your charges reduced, dismissed, or negotiating a plea bargain to avoid a costly and time-consuming trial.

At Newman & Allen, we are prepared to aggressively fight your weapons assault charges. Weapons charges can have a major impact on your life, and we want to help you protect your future. Call us today at (909) 328-6101 to set up a free consultation with one of our Rancho Cucamonga weapons attorneys.

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