The term “felonious assault,” or “assault with a dangerous weapon,” is the act of attacking another person with a weapon that could inflict serious injury or death. For example, felonious assault occurs when someone points a gun at someone, or threatens to stab him with a knife. To “assault” someone means to cause them to feel an immediate fear that they are to suffer harm. To explore this concept, consider the following felonious assault definition.
Definition of Felonious Assault
- To attack someone with a weapon that could cause their serious injury or death, such as a gun or a knife.
1375-1425 late Middle English (felonous)
What is Felonious Assault Meaning?
Felonious assault is the act of threatening to attack another person with a weapon that could cause them serious harm. Pointing a gun at someone, holding someone at knifepoint, or brandishing brass knuckles at someone are all examples of felonious assault. It is the increased severity of the crime that makes the assault punishable as a felony.
Proving Felonious Assault
In order for a person to receive a conviction for felonious assault, the prosecution must satisfy all the elements proving felonious assault. There are four elements to proving felonious assault. The defendant:
- must have either attempted to commit assault, or did something to cause any reasonable person to fear immediate assault.
- either intended to hurt the other person or made the other person reasonably fear that he was going to hurt him (like pointing a gun at him).
- was able to commit assault, appeared to be able to commit assault, or thought he was able to commit assault.
- committed an assault using a dangerous weapon.
Proving felonious assault also means the prosecutor must show that the conduct was a felonious assault beyond a reasonable doubt. Only then can a court or jury lawfully convict the defendant.
Felonious Assault Examples
Below are some cases that provide a clearer example of felonious assault as defined by law.
The first of our felonious assault examples involves assault resulting in serious physical injury. In the matter of People v. Garland (2018), Tamarkqua Garland received several assault convictions after he shot a gun five times into a crowd, with one of those shots hitting a 15-year-old bystander in the leg. The victim testified at trial that his injury was “very traumatizing.” He testified that he was on crutches for two months after the incident, and that he suffered such aftereffects as limping and requiring crutches while in the shower.
The second of our felonious assault examples involves assault on a member of a protected class – specifically, a police officer. In January of 2019, police officers responded to a disturbance at Spec’s Liquor Store in Texas. The officers approached a suspect and asked him if he had caused the disturbance.
After the suspect kept giving the officers bad information, they arrested him for failure to provide I.D. He cooperated with the officers until they attempted to put him in the back of the police car. He then became aggressive, and after getting him into the car and attempting to drive, the suspect spat on the officer in the passenger seat.
After running the suspect’s criminal history, the officers discovered a notation that the suspect was “highly contagious” because he had HIV/AIDS, making this seemingly minor act a serious felony. The suspect ultimately received 12 years in prison for assaulting a public servant.
Penalties for Felonious Assault
The penalties for felonious assault are severe, just as the penalties for all felonies are severe. Of course, the penalties for felonious assault come into play when the defendant receives a conviction from a judge or jury. These penalties may include:
- A number of years in jail
- A substantial fine of anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000
- many hours of community service
This is why most individuals who are facing a felonious assault charge hire a lawyer to help them with their case. The penalties for felonious assault are too severe to risk representing oneself.
Felonious Assault Example: Assault with a Steel Rod
While there certainly plenty of examples of felonious assault in today’s social climate, the following example of felonious assault reached the U.S. Supreme Court occurred in the matter of Goswick v. State (1962). Here, Henry Goswick attacked a man by hitting him with a steel rod, and police charged him with aggravated assault.
At the trial on his matter, Goswick objected to the charges against him. He argued that the jury would have reduced his charge to an assault and battery charge (a charge that comes with less severe penalties) if they considered the weapon he had used was not “deadly” in the way that a knife or a gun might be.
The trial judge refused to instruct the jury on how to proceed in this regard. The jury subsequently convicted Goswick as charged. He appealed his conviction, however the District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court. The matter then made its way before the U.S. Supreme Court.
U.S. Supreme Court Decision
The Supreme Court ruled in Goswick’s favor and quashed the District Court’s decision. The Court remanded the case back to the lower court for a reversal of the conviction and a new trial. Said the Court, in its decision:
“It is clear from the foregoing that the crime of aggravated assault, as defined by statute in Florida, does not require proof of a battery. It is sufficient to prove that the weapon employed in making the assault is deadly. However, the crime of aggravated assault may include a battery, such as when the accused not only assaults the victim with a deadly weapon but actually strikes him. (Citation omitted.) If the weapon used is found by the jury to be a deadly weapon, even though there has also been a battery, the crime constitutes an aggravated assault.
On the other hand, in a particular case, such as the one before us, the jury might conclude that the weapon was not deadly. Under such circumstances if the evidence reveals both an assault and a battery, the accused could be convicted of no more than assault and battery. This follows because an element essential to aggravated assault the deadly weapon is missing. If the weapon is not a deadly one and there is no battery, the crime would be a simple assault. (Citation omitted).”
Related Legal Terms and Issues
- Defendant – A party against whom a person has filed a lawsuit in civil court, or who stands accused of, or charged with, a crime or offense.
- Felony – A crime, often involving violence, regarded as more serious than a misdemeanor. Felony crimes are usually punishable by imprisonment more than one year.
- Jury – A group of people sworn to render a verdict in a trial, based on evidence presented.
- Trial – A formal presentation of evidence before a judge and jury for the purpose of determining guilt or innocence in a criminal case, or to rule in a civil matter.