Individuals facing misdemeanor or felony assault charges in Maryland often have questions about the law itself, why they were charged with first- and not second-degree assault, and what penalties they face if convicted. In order to answer such questions with certitude, Montgomery County criminal defense attorneys must understand the unique circumstances and facts surrounding each case. It is possible, however, to provide a brief overview of assault and battery in general, maximum sentences, and common law background of these crimes.

Common Law Definition of Battery and Assault


Under Maryland statutory law, the crime of assault may apply to battery, assault, or to assault and battery in combination. However, at common law, assault and battery have traditionally been defined separately. Typically, the crime of battery has occurred when a defendant causes either physical injury or offensive physical contact to another individual. In several jurisdictions the battery must be perpetrated with intent in order to be considered criminal, but some states apply criminal charges for battery to those committing the same recklessly or with criminal neglect. All injuries, no matter how insignificant, will meet the personal injury test.

Assault has occurred when an individual attempts to commit a battery, but fails, or, an individual places another in fear of imminent injury. So again, at common law, an unsuccessful but intentional attempt to commit battery will garner an assault charge.

‘Simple assault’ and ‘simple battery’ are both considered misdemeanors. However, most states, including Maryland, recognize aggravated or felony assault. Most commonly, felony assault includes an additional felony criminal intent by the defendant, such as assault with intent to rape, or assault with intent to kill and/or committing an assault with the use of firearm.


Maryland Second Degree Assault


Second degree assault is ‘simple assault’ with physical injury involved. This is usually a misdemeanor charge with prison terms of up to 10 years. If, however, the assault took place on a law enforcement officer, it is charged as a felony.

Maryland First Degree Assault


Under Maryland law, first degree assault is that which causes severe physical injury or assault with a firearm. It is classified as a felony, with up to 25 years in prison for those convicted. Serious physical injury is that which creates a considerable risk of death, causes deformity or loss of a limb or organ, or mutilation of limbs or organs.


Penalties for Maryland Assault Charges


  • First Degree Assault: A maximum term of incarceration of 25 years
  • Second Degree Assault: A maximum term of incarceration of 10 years
  • Second Degree Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer: A maximum term of incarceration of 10 years

Howard County assault charge lawyers know that facing any criminal charges, whether misdemeanor or felonious, can be very frightening. The criminal defense lawyers at Price Benowitz, LLP approach each client’s case with understanding and an eye towards the unique circumstances and facts of each given situation. Our team of assault lawyers carefully reviews evidence, works with officials to reduce charges if/when appropriate, and represents clients through every step of the criminal process.

Our Virginia assault lawyers are ready to answer any questions you might have about these laws. You can also read more about assault on Wikipedia. Written by Phil Balbo.