The Court of Appeals in White v. U.S., decided on May 9, 2019, reversed an aggravated assault conviction while defining and expanding on the elements needed for conviction.

There are three levels of assault charges in the District:

  • Simple Assault: the lowest level requires minimal or no injury punishable by 180 days in jail.
  • Assault with “significant bodily injury”: the intermediate assault level requiring by definition an injury that requires hospitalization or immediate medical attention, punishable by three years of jail time.
  • Aggravated assault, serious bodily injury generally defined as: bodily injury that involves a substantial risk of death, unconsciousness, extreme physical pain, protracted and obvious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ or mental faculty – punishable by 10 years of jail.

The issue in the case was whether the victim was sufficiently injured due to assault to justify the aggravated assault conviction and the Court held that although injuries were significant they were not serious enough to justify such conviction.

The Court noted that there is a high threshold of injury required for aggravated assault as the punishment is nearly twenty times as long as that for simple assault.

Thus, for aggravated assault, injuries must be life-threatening or disabling including stab wounds, intense burns, and broken bones.  The victims should require urgent and continuing medical treatment (and, often, surgery), carried visible and long lasting scars, and suffer from other consequential damage, such as significant impairment of their faculties.

Simply put the aggravated assault injuries must be to the level just shy of causing death.

Here, the defendant was able to leave the hospital shortly after being admitted, returned to work within a week and did not suffer from broken bones or permanent impairment.  Nor was the victim in great deal of pain or for a prolonged period.

Although the victim was initially disoriented, the nature of his injuries did not require him to stay overnight in the hospital, receive surgery, or adhere to post-release restrictions.

In short the Court concluded: the victim here unquestionably suffered a severe beating and experienced pain and discomfort immediately after the attack and in the weeks following it — but the record is insufficient to demonstrate that he suffered serious bodily injury under the standards established in our case law.

Refer to our Washington DC Assault Lawyer page for more information and details on this topic.

Refer to our Washington DC Criminal Lawyer page for additional criminal law subjects and categories.

Categories: Criminal Defense.