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New York Penal Law § 120.10: Assault in the First Degree

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Assault in the First Degree is one of the most serious assault charges in the New York Penal system. It is categorized as a violent felony offense and involves severe physical injury inflicted intentionally, often with the use of a weapon or under circumstances that reflect extreme indifference to human life. This charge is typically levied in cases where the nature of the assault is particularly egregious and the consequences for the victim are profound and long-lasting. If you have been charged with first-degree assault in New York, a skilled New York criminal defense lawyer can help you understand your charges, protect your rights, and build a strong defense aimed at securing the best possible outcome in your case.

Related Offenses

Contact Lebedin Kofman LLP today at (646) 663-4430 for more information.

Hypothetical Example Based on Case Law

Consider the following hypothetical scenario: A man named David becomes embroiled in a dispute with his neighbor over property boundaries. The altercation intensifies, and in a moment of rage, David strikes his neighbor with a metal pipe, aiming for his head and causing a fractured skull. The neighbor sustains a brain injury that necessitates emergency surgery. In this case, David would likely be charged with Assault in the First Degree due to his intentional infliction of a serious physical injury with a dangerous instrument.

Related Offenses

Several offenses are closely related to Assault in the First Degree, and these include:

Each offense varies in terms of intent, severity of injury caused, and specific circumstances under which the crime was committed.

Elements and Definitions of the Offense

To be charged with Assault in the First Degree under NY Penal Law § 120.10, the following elements must be present:

  • Serious Physical Injury: The victim must have sustained a serious and life-threatening injury, which could result in death or cause prolonged disfigurement or impairment.
  • Intent: The perpetrator must have had a clear intention to cause such injury to the victim.
  • Weapon or Dangerous Instrument: The assault is often carried out with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, enhancing the severity of the charge.
  • Aggravating Circumstances: The assault may occur in conjunction with another felony or against a person belonging to a protected category, like law enforcement officers.

Possible Legal Defenses

Defendants facing charges of Assault in the First Degree may consider several legal defenses:

  • Claiming Self-Defense or Defense of Others: This defense hinges on the argument that the defendant’s actions, even if they resulted in serious injury, were a necessary response to an immediate threat of harm to oneself or others. This claim directly challenges the prosecution’s assertion of a depraved indifference to human life or intent to cause serious physical injury.
  • Contesting Intent: If it can be demonstrated that the defendant did not intend to cause serious physical harm, this undercuts a core component required for a first-degree assault conviction. The defense can argue that without this intent, the severity of the charge should be lessened.
  • Arguing Accidental Harm: By asserting that the injury was accidental, the defense calls into question whether a “deadly weapon” was used with the intent required under the statute or whether the actions demonstrated a depraved indifference to human life.
  • Challenging the Identification: If the defense can successfully argue mistaken identity, then the prosecution cannot meet its burden to prove that the defendant committed any assault, let alone an assault with the specific intent and under the circumstances required for a first-degree charge.


If convicted of Assault in the First Degree in New York, an individual faces severe penalties:

  • Prison: Persons convicted of first-degree assault in New York can face anywhere from 5 to 25 years in a state correctional facility.
  • Probation: Post-release supervision for a period that may extend up to 5 years.
  • Fines: A $5,000 fine may be imposed upon conviction.
  • Restitution: Depending on the circumstances of the case, the defendant may be mandated to pay restitution to the injured party. The statutory maximum amount of restitution is $15,000, however, the court can impose a higher amount to cover the victim’s medical expenses.
  • Permanent Criminal Record: A felony record with long-term consequences on employment and civil rights.

New York Penal Law § 120.10: Assault in the First Degree

A person is guilty of assault in the first degree when:

  1. With intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, he causes such injury to such person or to a third person by means of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument; or
  2. With intent to disfigure another person seriously and permanently, or to destroy, amputate or disable permanently a member or organ of his body, he causes such injury to such person or to a third person; or
  3. Under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life, he recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person, and thereby causes serious physical injury to another person; or
  4. In the course of and in furtherance of the commission or attempted commission of a felony or of immediate flight therefrom, he, or another participant if there be any, causes serious physical injury to a person other than one of the participants.

Assault in the first degree is a class B felony.

Experienced and Compassionate Assistance From Lebedin Kofman LLP

In the state of New York, facing a charge of Assault in the First Degree is a serious legal matter. This top-tier felony is applied in situations where a person is accused of causing severe physical harm to another, possibly using a deadly weapon, or displaying a wanton disregard for human life. The definitions of “serious physical injury” and “deadly weapon” are tightly bound by legal terminology, and these details are pivotal in shaping the outcome of a trial.

The complexities of such a case require a defense that is both knowledgeable and strategic. This is where the skilled attorneys at Lebedin Kofman LLP step in. Lebedin Kofman LLP’s approach to defense is thorough and nuanced, aimed at ensuring the rights of the accused are upheld while meticulously scrutinizing the prosecution’s evidence. Their role is not only to challenge the components of the felony charge but also to guide clients through the legal process.

Those grappling with an Assault in the First Degree charge in New York should promptly seek competent legal representation. The attorneys at Lebedin Kofman LLP are prepared to delve into the intricacies of your case, fostering a defense that leverages a deep understanding of the law. Contact Lebedin Kofman LLP at (646) 663-4430 today and secure a team that is committed to advocating for your legal rights and freedom.

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