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The Court in U.S. v. Acosta reinforces that a victim must be subjectively aware of immediate bodily harm in order to sustain a conviction for criminal assault

An assault is a crime that is a serious criminal offense (Penal Code Section 241). The crime of assault requires that a person:
1. Threatens to injure another person; and 2. Has the present ability to carry out threat; and 3. Places the person threatened to be in fear of immediate bodily harm.

In the recent 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision handed down in U.S v. Acosta-Sierra, the court overturned an assault conviction where the defendant was charged with assault on a federal officer with a dangerous and deadly weapon. Specifically, the issue the court had to determine was whether or not a victim had to know that he/she was being threatened at the time the threat was made in order for the defendant to be guilty of the assault crime.

In U.S. v. Acosta-Sierra, the defendant threw a base-ball size piece of jagged rock in the direction of a United States Customs officer. The rock did not in fact strike the officer, but sailed past him and hit a metal gate. At no point did the officer observe the rock flying toward him, as his back was turned to the defendant at the time of the incident. The officer also testified that he was not worried about being hurt because he was not aware he was being attacked.

Based upon this evidence, the U.S. Court of Appeals held that because the officer did not become aware of the threat, a reasonable person in his position would not have been placed in fear of an immediate bodily injury. In addition, the court reasoned that a threat can only refer to a future and not a past act. Since the officer was not placed in fear until after the rock had already been thrown, the threat of bodily injury had passed.

The case of U.S. v. Acosta-Sierra highlights the importance of understanding the various assault laws and how hiring an experienced and knowledgeable attorney can help change the outcome of your criminal case. At Wallin & Klarich, our assault lawyers have over 30 years of experience in successfully representing clients charged with assault with a deadly weapon. Drawing from our extensive experience, we will carefully review your assault charge and develop a defense strategy to help you win your case.

Call our Orange County assault defense attorneys today at 1-888-280-6839. We will be there when you call.

About Wallin & Klarich

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.