If you used a dangerous weapon to threaten or injure someone else, you could be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. You can also be charged if you intentionally pointed a weapon at someone but didn't fire it.
In some cases, the crime falls under federal jurisdiction, and the government could prosecute you for the offense if the crime involved any of the following:
- It occurred on federal property
- It was against an officer or employee of the U.S. government
If you were arrested on federal charges of assault with a deadly weapon, you need a comprehensive evaluation of your case to develop an effective defense strategy. For help, you should consult with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Understanding Assault With a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon?
According to federal law, if you use a “deadly or dangerous weapon” during an assault, you can receive an enhanced penalty. The maximum prison sentence is 20 years, along with fines. The law also includes weapons that were intended to cause harm or death but failed to because of “a defective component.” An example is a gun misfiring.
Furthermore, a dangerous weapon does not have to be a gun, a knife, or any other commonly recognized deadly weapon. Even something like a chair can be a dangerous weapon if you throw it at someone and hit them. You could face charges for assault with a dangerous weapon if it caused the person serious injuries, and the same holds true for other common items, such as rocks, shoes, glass bottles, and belts.
The federal government can charge and prosecute you for assault with a deadly or dangerous weapon if the crime occurs on government property. Some examples include:
- Federal buildings, such as administrative offices and immigration offices
- Federal prisons
- Post offices
- National parks
- U.S. ships or ships within the maritime jurisdiction of the U.S.
You can also face federal charges if you use a deadly or dangerous weapon to steal government property. Examples include mail and money, and it includes property the government seized from you.
Federal charges may also result if you used a weapon or dangerous object when assaulting an officer or employee of the federal government, such as:
- Federal law enforcement agents, such as the FBI, CIA, and ATF
- Employees of federal agencies, such as Social Security Administration staff
- Postal workers and mail carriers
You can also face charges if you assaulted or threatened a member of the officer or employee's immediate family.
The law prohibits assaulting an officer or employee while they are fulfilling their duties. However, you can also face federal charges if you assault someone in retaliation for something they did when they performed their official duties. An example is assaulting a federal judge because of a harsh sentence you received. You can also face charges even if the person has since retired.
Penalties for Federal Assault With a Deadly Weapon
As an enhanced penalty for assault, assault with a deadly weapon imposes considerable prison sentences and fines. Maximum prison sentences can range from 10 to 20 years, with fines up to $250,000. However, the penalties will depend on several factors that include:
- The severity of the injury
- The victim's age
- Whether the victim was a federal employee
- Any previous convictions on your record
You can also get enhanced penalties if you intended to kill the person or if you caused them “serious” bodily injury, disfigurement, or the loss or impairment of their body parts. You might receive enhanced penalties as well if you conducted the offense to commit another felony.
Possible Defenses for Federal Assault With a Deadly Weapon
Although federal prosecutors may believe they have enough evidence to convict you, you have every right to challenge the evidence and defend yourself against the charges. Prosecutors will have to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and jurors will have to be unanimous in their verdict.
Extenuating circumstances involving your case can cast doubt on the jury and help you obtain favorable outcomes, such as:
- Self-defense – You may claim self-defense if you felt your life or safety was in danger. However, you must have used only “reasonable” force to thwart the attack, and you must prove that you, or an immediate family member, felt imminent danger for your life or safety.
- Mistaken identity – Prosecutors will have to prove it was you who committed the crime. Witness testimony is not always reliable, and photographic or video evidence is not always clear. You may be able to challenge the evidence that implicates you in the crime and raise doubt as to your involvement.
- Duress – If you can prove that someone else forced you to commit the offense by threatening you or inciting you, you may be able to claim duress. You shouldn't be held responsible for a crime you did not commit willfully.
Because the law uses a broad definition regarding “dangerous weapon,” you may have defense options depending on the type of object you used and the extent of the other person's injuries.
You may have other defense options available, but you will need a thorough evaluation of your case from an attorney who has experience defending against federal charges. You will also need an attorney who understands federal criminal procedure and has tried cases in federal district courts.
Get Help From an Experienced Federal Defense Attorney
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has many years of experience defending clients facing charges of federal assault with a deadly weapon, and he has tried many cases in New Jersey district court. He can review your case and advise you of your options and fight to help you get favorable results. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or contact us online to request a confidential consultation.