Assault With a Deadly Weapon is a Serious Criminal Charge in California

In the state of California, there is a crime termed “assault with a deadly weapon.” Codified by California Penal 245 PC, assault with a deadly weapon occurs when at least one of two criteria is met – a California assault that is committed with a “deadly weapon,” or a California assault that is committed with a level of force that is likely to produce great bodily injury. For individuals in the San Diego area who have been charged with assault with a deadly weapon, it is imperative to understand the nature and potential consequences of a conviction and to retain the services of a skilled and experienced California criminal defense attorney.

What Makes a Weapon Deadly in the State of California?

The first question asked when contemplating the charge of assault with a deadly weapon in the state of California usually pertains to what distinguishes a “deadly” weapon from a non-deadly weapon.  California law, as one might expect, makes the differentiation. In California, a “deadly” weapon is any object, instrument, or weapon that is used a way that renders it capable of producing, and likely to produce, death or great bodily injury. Of course, the language here breeds further questions. What is “great bodily injury?” Used in what way? What objects, instruments, or weapons? Guns and knives come to mind quickly, but the list of deadly weapons contains many more items that just these two. For example, even a bottle or pencil, if used to attack someone, may rise to the level of deadly. This is because the law considers more than just the nature of the object in question; it also considers the purpose with which the object is used. Thus, an ordinary object such as a screwdriver, for instance, may be deemed a deadly weapon if used for the purpose of causing great bodily harm.  

In terms of purpose, the state looks to both the application of force in question and the defendant’s “willfulness” in applying the force. The threshold for application of force is surprisingly low. In California, any harmful or offensive touching is considered an application of force. Similarly, the willfulness requirement is quite easy to satisfy, as to act willfully is simply to act intentionally – to act with purpose. Because we are dealing with assault rather than battery, the willful application of force does not even need to have been successful or completed – the purposeful action is enough.

Finally, with regard to the definition of assault with a deadly weapon, great bodily injury refers to substantial or significant injuries. It is measured by the severity of the injury, the pain caused by the injury, and the level or medical care needed to address the injury.

The above analysis of the charge of assault with a deadly weapon in the state of California is merely an overview. For greater detail, and to begin protecting your rights as you face what is a very serious matter, consult with a skilled and experienced San Diego area criminal defense attorney.