Accidental Assault

The District of Columbia realizes that mistakes happen. According to the law, an assault must be done intentionally for it to constitute an assault. The Code of the District of Columbia states and an incident constitutes an assault if the defendant, “unlawfully assaults, or threatens another in a menacing manner, and intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes [the incident]”.Regardless of the type of assault, there must be an intention to commit a crime for it to actually be assault. The D.C. Criminal Code recognizes a defense of accident or mistake to assault charges if the incident lacks knowledge or intention. In the case of an accident or a mistake, the law acknowledges these actions had no intention, and therefore this can be invoked as a defense in your case.

In the case of invoking a defense of accident or mistake, you are admitting to the assault but claim it happened in circumstances in which you had no intentions. Consider a simple scenario: It’s raining and you’re using an umbrella. You turn around and accidentally strike somebody with the umbrella. In this instance, you could use a defense of accident at trial, which would entail you admitting you struck the person with the umbrella, but that you had no intention of hitting them, and it was purely an accident. At trial, your attorney must present evidence to the court that convinces them the event was an accident or a mistake. In the previous scenario, your attorney could present evidence to the court that it was raining the day of the incident and why you had to turn around. When invoking an accident or mistake defense, it is the defendant’s burden to prove there was a lack of intent.

A defense of mistake is invoked very rarely in the District of Columbia. Typically, there are two types of mistake defenses: mistake of law or mistake of fact. However, in the District of Columbia, courts have consistently ruled that not knowing the law is not a defense. Because of this, mistake of fact is the sole mistake defense available to defendants in the District. A mistake of fact defense must prove there were circumstances unknown to the defendant that prevented them from knowing they were breaking the law. Like a defense of accident, this defense is used to defend an assault if there was no intent and it is the burden of the defense to prove this. Your attorney must provide the Court with evidence which proves a mistake of fact occurred. However, this can often be hard to prove, which is why a mistake of fact defense can sometimes not be the best defense for your circumstances.

If you are charged with committing a crime you committed due to an accident or a mistake it is imperative you contact a skilled and experienced DC assault attorney to aid in your defense. The maximum jail sentence for a simple assault charge is 180 days and/or $1000 fine, or if the incident resulted in significant bodily injury up to three years. With the possibility of such severe sentences, contact the DC assault attorneys at Bruckheim & Patel to help you receive the best possible outcome.

About Micheal Bruckheim

As a former Prosecutor, Michael Bruckheim has experience on the other side of the aisle. Prior to founding his law office in 2010, Mr. Bruckheim enjoyed a diverse career in litigation at the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia (OAG) serving for over 11 years. He began his OAG career as a prosecutor in the Criminal Section where he conducted numerous bench and jury trials in traffic and criminal misdemeanor matters. Mr. Bruckheim was promoted and served as Chief of the Criminal Section at the OAG where he supervised the prosecution of DUI offenses in the District and directed a staff of over 20 attorneys.