Assault with a deadly weapon means you used a “dangerous weapon” to intentionally injure or threaten the person. To be charged with assault, you don't have to make physical contact with the person or complete the action intended to cause them. In other words, you can be charged with assault with a deadly weapon if you intentionally pointed a gun at someone but didn't fire it.
Under certain circumstances, the offense falls under federal jurisdiction, and if you have been arrested and charged with federal assault with a deadly weapon, the facts and circumstances of your case are vitally important, especially when developing a defense. Therefore, you should understand the charges against you and consult with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible for help.
What Is Federal Assault With a Deadly Weapon?
U.S. Code Title 18 section 113 deals specifically with assault with a “deadly or dangerous weapon,” and section 111 mentions it as an enhanced penalty.
Under the law, a dangerous weapon is any object that can cause serious bodily harm, even if the object is not normally used as a weapon. For instance, if you throw a metal chair at someone and it causes an injury to the other person, you can face charges for assault with a dangerous or deadly weapon. The same holds for many common items, such as shoes, belts, rocks, and glass bottles.
Certain offenses fall under federal jurisdiction if they occur on federal property, which includes federal buildings and prisons, along with national parks and U.S. ships. Federal property can also include mail, money, or other items that belong to the U.S. government, and if you use a weapon in your attempt to steal from the government, you can face a federal charge.
You can also face federal charges for assault with a deadly weapon if you assault “certain officers or employees” of the federal government. Examples include postal workers, federal law enforcement, and staff of federal agencies, such as the IRS or Social Security Administration.
It is an offense to assault a federal employee or officer who is “engaged in the performance of official duties.” It is also an offense to assault someone in retaliation for them having performed their official duties, even if they have since retired. For example, if you threaten a federal judge (sitting or retired) because of a harsh sentence you received, you can face federal charges. It's also a federal offense to assault or threaten immediate family members of federal officers and employees.
What Are the Potential Penalties?
The law lists assault with a deadly or dangerous weapon as an enhanced penalty to assault. However, penalties for a conviction of federal assault with a deadly weapon will depend on several factors, including:
- The nature and severity of the injury
- The age of the victim
- Whether the victim was a federal employee
- Any previous convictions on your record
You can also receive enhanced penalties for assault if the intent was to commit murder or if you conducted the offense to commit another felony.
All sentences can include incarceration and fines. Maximum prison sentences can range from 10 to 20 years, with fines up to $250,000.
What Are Some Defenses to Federal Assault With a Deadly Weapon?
You have the right to defend yourself against the charges, and the facts surrounding your case will help determine the best course of action. Some possible defense strategies may include:
- Self-defense – You may have felt your life or safety was in danger, and your actions were in self-defense. However, you must have only used “reasonable” force to thwart an attack, and you must prove that you, or a loved one, felt imminent danger for your life or safety from the other party.
- Duress – If someone else forced you to commit the offense by threatening you or if they incited you to act, you may be able to claim duress. Again, you will have to prove that you felt threatened or coerced into committing the action by another party.
- Other defenses – Sometimes, a person may feel threatened by someone because they think the other person is holding a weapon, and they may have assaulted the person to defuse the situation. When it's discovered the item was not a weapon, the one who felt threatened may be charged. To refute the charge, you may be able to base your defense on mistaken identity. Another possible defense option is entrapment, which means a law enforcement officer influenced you to commit the offense.
The circumstances involving your situation are important in developing an effective defense against the charges. You need a thorough review of your case from an attorney with experience defending against charges of federal assault with a deadly weapon to understand your options.
Get an Experienced Federal Defense Attorney
To officially charge you with a crime, the federal government must obtain a grand jury indictment against you. This can be both good and bad. It requires a higher burden of proof for the prosecution, but if a grand jury does indict you, it means the prosecution already has a substantial case against you.
Furthermore, your case will be heard in a federal court in Pennsylvania, and if you live in eastern or central Pennsylvania, the court will be in either the eastern or middle district.
Although the government may have substantial evidence against you, a charge is not a conviction. You need an attorney with experience defending against charges in federal court to challenge the evidence, assert your rights, and help you get the best outcome possible.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has many years of experience representing clients in Pennsylvania who are facing federal charges of assault with a deadly weapon. He will work with you to develop a solid and comprehensive defense strategy 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.