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Matthew A. Radefeld and Daniel A. Juengel

Understanding assault and battery in Missouri

On Behalf of | Mar 20, 2023 | Violent Crimes |

Some states define assault as an intentional act that causes physical harm to another, including making threats, or attempting physical contact, even if there are no injuries. Battery, on the other hand, is the actual act that inflicts the injury. In Missouri, there is an important legal difference as both threat and contact are simply referred to as “assault.” There is no separate battery charge under the law.

Degrees of assault in Missouri

In Missouri, there are four degrees of assault. Fourth-degree assault is the only degree that is considered a misdemeanor and can be classified as a Class C or a Class A.

When the accused deliberately causes an individual to fear for their safety, including inappropriate touching, it is categorized as Class C. If the victim is considered a “special victim,” or if the assault included the use of a firearm, or if physical injury was inflicted through reckless behavior, the assault could be upgraded to a Class A.

Felony assault

There are three types of felony assault charges:

  • Third-degree assault is considered a Class E felony when physical injury knowingly occurs.
  • Second-degree assault is a Class D felony if there was an attempt to kill another person, if a deadly weapon was used to harm another, or if physical injury was caused by the reckless actions of another, including the discharge of a firearm.
  • First-degree assault occurs when the victim is a “special victim” ( Class A), there was an attempt to kill the victim, or if the accused knowingly caused or attempted to cause serious injury to another person (Class B felony).

Who is considered a special victim in an assault case in Missouri?

If the victim in an assault charge is a person who falls under the “special victim” category, charges will usually be more severe, and felonies will be reclassified to accommodate. These are individuals who are at risk, vulnerable or are employed to protect and administer aid to others. The persons included in the special victim category are:

  • Police officers, probation officers, emergency personnel, correction officers, highway workers, utility workers, cable workers, or mass transit employees who are assaulted in the line of duty or because of their duty.
  • At-risk persons such as the elderly, disabled persons, or other vulnerable persons.

While battery charges do not apply in Missouri, assault charges can range depending on the degree of harm, the nature of the assault, and whether the victim was categorized under a special victim’s definition.