Josh Farley writes:
When does fourth-degree assault become a felony third-degree assault? The short answer is that it depends on the victim.
Sharon O’Hara got me curious about the Washington assault statutes after she posed an interesting question in a comment posted to a story. Follow the links to learn more about the individual incidents.
“4th degree assault for beating up someone at a Red Robin…..a felony charge for a person hitting the ferry captain … Why such a difference? Is a captain of a ferry boat more important than a Red Robin customer?”
The short answer, Sharon, is that in the legal system, there aren’t “more important” people, but there are ones performing services that affect all of us more than others. I spoke with Kitsap County Deputy Prosecutor Chris Casad for the clarification.
A misdemeanor fourth-degree assault — basically any kind of “unlawful touching” — is punishable by up to a year in the county jail. But it becomes third-degree felony assault — punishable by up to five years in a state prison — for a myriad of reasons, most commonly when the person assaulted is performing a “public service.”
Jobs in which victims are considered public servants include nurses, firefighters, transit operators, and of course, our law enforcement officers.
In the case of the ferry captain, he was performing a public service, and Casad said that was hampered by the alleged punch (which likely caused delays and other problems).
For those interested, here’s the link to the assault statutes in the Revised Code of Washington.