The threshold requirement for a simple assault charge in the District is very low.

The statute criminalizes “whoever unlawfully assaults, or threatens in a menacing manner.”  That is, you can be charged with simple assault with marginal evidence as the statute is overbroad.

Various statutory levels of assault in the District of Columbia are categorized as:


Simple Assault carries a penalty of $1000.00 fine or no more than 180 days in jail or both.

An experienced criminal law DC assault lawyer would fully consider and litigate all viable defenses to an assault charge, including but not limited to, self-defense and defense of others — guide you through the process with minimal exposure.

Depending on the severity of the injuries and potential weapons used during commission of offense, the charge may be Aggravated Assault, Assault with Deadly Weapon, or Assault with Intent to Kill.

For example, DC assault charge with a significant bodily injury is a step up from Simple Assault and is defined as:

  1. Whoever assaults, threatens, and intentionally and knowingly or
  2. Recklessly causes significant bodily injury to other.

The Washington DC assault with significant injury offense carries a potential prison sentence of three years and/or a $3,000 fine.


DC aggravated assault is defined as whoever knowingly causes serious bodily injury to another person.  Serious bodily injury means:

  1.  An injury that creates substantial risk of death, unconsciousness, extreme physical pain or
  2.  Protracted and obvious disfigurement.

Washington DC aggravated assault charge carries a fine of $10,000 and/or imprisonment for not more than 10 years, or both.


Assault on a police officer can be either a Misdemeanor or a Felony depending on the severity of the injuries.

Specifically, the Statute provides:

  1. “Whoever without justifiable and excusable cause, assaults, resists, opposes, impedes, intimidates, or
  2.  Interferes with a law enforcement officer on account of, or while that law enforcement officer is engaged in the performance of his or her official duties shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be imprisoned not more than 180 days or fined not more than $1,000, or both.”

If on the other hand there is:

  1.  A “significant bodily injury to the law enforcement officer, or
  2.  The person commits a violent act that creates a grave risk of causing significant bodily injury to the officer…then the charge would be considered a felony and penalties upon conviction shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years or fined not more than $10,000, or both.

A trial by judge or jury can result in a not guilty verdict if reasonable doubt has been established.

A criminal law DC lawyer with impeccable litigation skills can often meet the minimum threshold to create reasonable doubt given favorable evidence.

Thus it is imperative to engage our skilled, trained and seasoned DC assault lawyer to seek out all exculpatory evidence exonerating you of the charges.


The DV assault is generally handled by the Domestic Violence Unit — a subdivision of the court designated to hear cases involved assault, threats, stalking, etc and other crimes committed by a person under the following categories:

1) Interpersonal violence:

  • With whom the offender shares or has shared a mutual residence; or
  • Who is or was married to, in a domestic partnership with, divorced or separated from, or in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship with another person who is or was married to, in a domestic partnership with, divorced or separated from, or in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship with the offender.

2) Intimate partner violence:

  • To whom the offender is or was married;
  • With whom the offender is or was in a domestic partnership; or
  • With whom the offender is or was in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship.

3) Intrafamily violence:

  •  Means an act punishable as a criminal offense that is committed or threatened to be committed by an offender upon a person to whom the offender is related by blood, adoption, legal custody, marriage, or domestic partnership, or with whom the offender has a child in common.

Generally Intrafamily offense are collectively refer to as either interpersonal, intimate partner, or intrafamily violence.

The common element among these type of cases are both motivated and zealous prosecutors as well as Judges who can and do impose jail time even on the first time offenders.

It is imperative to prepare the DV case throughly and diligently and plan to take each one to trial as plea deals are either not attractive nor reasonable.


Self-defense to rebut charge of assault is both viable and when properly asserted can result in an acquittal.    In the District self-defense can be properly asserted when:

  • If you actually believe you are in imminent danger of bodily harm; and
  • If you have reasonable grounds for that belief.

The critical test is that act of self-defense must be commensurate.  That is, you may use the amount of force which, at the time of the incident, you actually and reasonably believe is necessary to protect you or a third person (defense of others) from imminent bodily harm.

Even use of deadly force may be justified if one reasonably believes imminent danger, death or serious bodily harm may be inflicted on you.  The key test is reasonable belief.  Your reasonable belief must be objectively reasonable not subjectively.

One must not also use any greater force than you actually and reasonably believe is necessary under the circumstances to prevent the harm you reasonably believe is intended or to save your life or avoid serious bodily harm.  That would be considered an incommensurate force.

The District is neither a right to stand and kill nor a duty to retreat to the wall before killing jurisdiction as has been categorized by various other jurisdictions.  The District subscribes to a middle ground.  That is, one should take reasonable steps to deescalate in stepping back or walking away in order to avoid use of deadly force as long as consistent with maintaining own safety.

There is however no duty to retreat when actually and reasonably in danger of death or serious bodily harm and that deadly force is necessary to repel that danger.

Self defense is not applicable when:

  • You are the aggressor, and thus cannot rely upon self-defense to justify the use of force.
  • If you deliberately put yourself in a position where you have reason to believe that your presence will provoke trouble.
  • Mere words are insufficient to justify the use of force.
  • One cannot claim self-defense to justify an assault on a police officer – even if a stop or arrest later turns out to be unlawful — unless the officer uses more force than appears to be reasonably necessary.

One may also use reasonable non-deadly force to protect home or business again if there is reasonable believe that your property is in imminent danger.  Generally, one may not use deadly force to protect your property. However, if you reasonably believe that an intruder is entering your home or business with the intent to commit a felony (such as murder, rape, robbery or burglary) or seriously harm any of its occupants, you may use deadly force.

Trial skills and firm grasp over the very legal minutia of assault cases can make a difference between a guilty and a non guilty verdict or dismissal.  Our DC assault lawyer in navigating cases to dismissal and acquittals has effectively and successfully asserted self-defense claims.

Review below some of the most recent developments and ruling on assault cases directly from the DC COURT OF APPEALS that would be applicable in any assault and related matter in trial and in the District.


Contact our Washington DC assault lawyer for a thorough case evaluation and analysis.