All The Different Types of Assault

To be blunt, there are many types of assault. “Assault,” generally, under ORC § 2903.13 is either “knowingly causing or attempting to cause physical harm to another” or “recklessly causing serious physical harm to another.” Basically, you have to know that what you’re doing will cause the harm or not really care if what you’re doing will cause serious physical harm to someone. So, I swing my baseball bat in a crowded theater. Either I know that I’m going to hit someone in the face and harm them or I’m aware and just don’t care. Either way, I’m committing assault. You’re probably thinking, “Wait a second. What’s the difference between ‘serious physical harm’ and ‘physical harm?’” Well, think of “physical harm” as being “bad,” while “serious physical harm” is “very bad. Under ORC § 2901.01, “physical harm” is pretty much any physical injury, great or small, while “serious physical harm” means you really hurt someone—disfigurement, incapacitation, “substantial risk of death,” hospitalization, or something that really makes someone suffer or puts them in a lot of pain. It can also include serious mental injury that causes the victim’s hospitalization. For example, in State v. Edwards the Franklin County Court of Appeals found that a two-centimeter cut above the victim’s eyebrow was serious physical harm. assault

And sometimes, failure to do something means that you “caused” a certain result if your relationship to the victim creates an obligation for you to act, such as a parent to a child or a caretaker to a client or patient. This arises in certain situations where the offender has a close relationship with a victim. That means that you can be guilty of assault even if you never acted, so long as you had a special relationship with the victim and failed to act. For example, a father owes a duty to act to stop some physical harm from happening to his child. In a really grisly case, State v. Elliot, a father who had killed his wife and left her dead in her home was guilty of assaulting his six-year-old child because the child discovered the body and suffered serious mental injury.

Penalties for Assaults and Felonies

But there are a lot of exceptions and circumstances that make the penalty worse or more lenient. It’s worse if you’re a caretaker of someone with a disability and harm that person. As you could probably guess, the law doesn’t really take kindly to someone hurting cops, prison guards, or first responders while they’re doing their job, so it’s a harsher penalty. The same is true for assaulting child services personnel, court officials and staff, health care workers, or school officials if you know that you’re assaulting one of them when you do it. We will talk about the severity of punishment later, but you should know that for now, who you assault can really matter.

Felonious Assault, Aggravated Assault, Negligent Assault and Voluntary Manslaughter

Felonious assault under ORC § 2903.11 is obviously more serious than regular assault, although you still have “knowledge” as intent. It covers three types of serious physical harm. First, it forbids serious physical harm to someone or their unborn, but unlike simple assault, you need to know that what you’re doing will cause serious physical harm. Second, it forbids using a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance to inflict regular physical harm. What’s a “deadly weapon?” Basically, anything capable of killing someone and it is used as a weapon. “Dangerous ordnances” are essentially automatic or sawed-off guns, bombs, military weapons, or guns with silencers. Finally, if you’re AIDS positive and you know it, having sex with someone without warning them, while you know that they aren’t aware of that, or they’re under eighteen and not your spouse, you’re guilty of felonious assault. Oh, and one more thing. We will talk about “attempt” later, but just know right now that if you attempt to kill someone but you didn’t have a “murderous purpose,” the state can still charge you with felonious assault.

What if you commit felonious assault but you only did it after someone provoked you, such as when you walked into your bedroom and saw your lover in bed with another person? Well, just as murder under provocation may reduce to voluntary manslaughter, so to may felonious assault reduce to aggravated assault. Just like voluntary manslaughter, an aggravated assault under ORC § 2903.12 is just a felonious assault that occurred due to some reasonable provocation that caused the offender to go into an uncontrollable rage. Again, the provocation needs to be reasonable enough to make someone want to use deadly force and words alone aren’t enough.

If you’re just negligent, meaning you did something seriously unreasonable, and caused physical harm with a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance without meaning to, ORC § 2903.14 classifies the offense as “negligent assault.”

Aggravated Vehicular Assault

Next are the types of vehicular assault, which is an assault through the operation of a motor vehicle or boat. Vehicular assault, under ORC § 2903.08, is the lesser of the two offenses in terms of penalty and standard for liability. A vehicular assault requires one of three things: (1) recklessly causing serious physical harm (meaning you knew of the risk of harm and didn’t care), (2) you’re the proximate cause of serious physical harm when you committed a speeding offense through a construction zone, or (3) you’re the proximate cause of serious physical harm when you commit a reckless operation offense in a construction zone. Remember, proximate cause means it’s part of the same transaction as the underlying crime. So if you speed through a construction zone and actually hit someone causing serious physical harm, or if they are seriously injured while trying to jump out of the way of your speeding vehicle, your speeding was the proximate cause of their death. And “reckless operation” means that you drove without caring about how your driving might affect the safety of the people around you, such as tailgating or passing through red lights.

Aggravated vehicular assault has the same definition as vehicular assault, but with one important caveat—you caused the serious physical harm with your vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. So, any DUI that results in you harming someone with your vehicle leads you to an aggravated vehicular assault charge. This is a pretty common charge and you see it a lot in the news. In fact, recently, a counter-protestor in Philadelphia was hit at a Reopen Philadelphia rally by a van after the counter-protestor extended his middle finger at the van driver, who was intoxicated. Here’s a good, general tip: don’t hit someone with your car and don’t do it drunk.

Are you or someone you know facing criminal charges? 

If you are facing criminal charges, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The Law Offices of Steven R. Adams is recognized by Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, The Best Lawyers in America, National Trial Lawyers Top 100, and is one of U.S. News' Best Law Firms.  Please contact us online or call our Cincinnati office directly at 513-929-9333 to schedule your free consultation. 

Alex Deardorff
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Criminal defense attorney Alex Deardorff is dedicated to serving her clients throughout the Cincinnati area