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What is Third Degree Assault?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 16, 2024
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Third degree assault is a type of criminal charge. A person may be charged with this crime if he causes bodily harm to another person either on purpose or because of reckless acts. The exact laws related to this charge vary, depending on the jurisdiction in which the crime is committed. A person may be charged with this crime if he hurts someone due to his own negligence or even by accident.

A person may be charged with assault if he physically attacks another party. He may even be charged with assault if he merely threatens another person as long as he seems capable of causing physical harm. Many jurisdictions have laws regarding when a threat is considered physical assault. In most cases, the victim of the threat must have felt fearful of an immediate attack.

To understand the difference between a threat that causes fear of immediate harm and one that does not, consider a person who threatens another with a shovel. If the party has a shovel in his hands and tells another person he’s going to hit him with it, that could be considered an immediate threat. If he says he’s going to go and find a shovel and then come back to the person to hit him, that may not be considered assault. In some places, it would still be considered a crime, however. It would just be a different type of crime.

In many places, assault in the third degree is classified as a misdemeanor, which is a more minor offense than a felony. In fact, in many jurisdictions, this is the only assault charge that is considered a misdemeanor. Second- and first-degree assault charges are often considered felonies and carry stiffer penalties.

Depending on the jurisdiction in which a person is charged with assault, third degree assault may be called an extraordinary risk crime. This designation, which means there is an extraordinary risk of harm, increases the penalty for those who are convicted. For example, in some jurisdictions, the fact that third degree assault is an extraordinary risk crime adds six months onto the sentence for the misdemeanor.

Often, the third degree assault charge is given in crimes in which there is no obvious physical harm. Such situations may occur as the result of minor altercations or domestic disputes. For example, one spouse may accuse the other of hitting or pushing him. Even in the absence of cuts or bruises, he may say that the hit or push caused him pain. This report of pain may be enough to warrant a third degree assault charge.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison , Writer
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a MyLawQuestions writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By Travis122790 — On May 03, 2017

I got accused of third degree assault due to me throwing my cell phone against the wall. It was during an argument with my girlfriend. The phone proceeded to bounce off the wall and hit her kid in the forehead. The kid needed stitches but is OK now. My girlfriend saw me throw my phone and told the police I did not try to throw it at either of them. I am currently in the military and go to college, I am trying so very hard to have a decent life, well until this came about. Hopefully the courts reduce the charge.

By anon326437 — On Mar 21, 2013

I plead guilty to assault in the third degree in New York in 2004 for hitting my wife. Actually, we hit each other, but I got arrested because the cops scared her into admitting what happened and I did not want her to go to jail because of her health issues where she would not survive a day in jail.

She did not press charges, and stood by me during every phase of the proceedings. My attorney did a good job even though the police exaggerated the case and I was let go with no jail time, no probation, no community service - just a four-month class which I completed. I feel terrible to this day for the meltdown I had that day.

A year later, we had a child together and got separated after another five years. She is a chronic addict and has serious health issues. She is now trying to take advantage of my record in NY and set up her life (with divorce at her terms while I would be in prison - she has a history of pulling of such stunts during her previous marriage/divorce).

She tried to have me convicted of false abuse accusations in 2010 (a misdemeanor and a felony). I was arrested and later acquitted at trial on both cases. She got nowhere and has only gotten worse with her addictions and health issues. A few doctors have already said she is not going to see our child graduate.

I need to stay in this country for the sake of my only child and my only family. I don't want him to end up in a foster home. My question is, if I apply for citizenship, will it be approved by the USCIS? Are there any grounds for ineligibility (I am a green card holder)? I heard that crimes of possibly more than a year jail/prison time and actual conviction in jail/prison of more than six months are grounds for ineligibility. I don't have any criminal record prior to 2004 and was acquitted of the false accusation charges at trial in 2010. Please advise how I should proceed.

By anon325613 — On Mar 17, 2013

My son has developmental delays. He came home from school holding his ear with both hands and crying. He was swollen, from his ear to the bottom of his cheek. I called his bus driver to ask him what happened but he just yelled back at me and told me that he was a minder. I asked to speak to the minder, he refused. The doctor examined him and discovered that he was smacked really hard and his ear was perforated. Can you please advise how to take action?

By anon324777 — On Mar 12, 2013

I have a no conviction, not felony, misdemeanor for hitting my ex-girlfriend. I know it is horrible and I really regret it. Before that I never had an issue with the law, and after that I haven't had any other issues either.

I finished my probation period actually in less time because of good behavior, and I paid everything I had to pay, went to anger management classes, did 72 hours of community service, and even donated money to the abused women association. After that, I kept on going to school, and finished my bachelor's degree in computer information systems. It has been three years already and as I said before, I have not had any other problems with the law. I don't smoke, don't use drugs, and don't drink.

This was a mistake. I did it when I was younger and I couldn't control myself because I saw my partner with someone else. I understand my reaction was not the correct reaction. I regret it and I really want to move on and fix my life, but now that I have finished college, I cannot find a job, because of my criminal background issue, and I am tired of being told that I am the best candidate and that they want to hire me and then after the background check everything collapses, and the job offer is removed.

Please, I need help. I want to live a normal life and make my parents proud again.

By anon318544 — On Feb 07, 2013

I was jumped by five boys on the wrestling team and larger than me in school after my sports project. They are working on pressing charges. Right now, the officers say third degree assault.

By anon307629 — On Dec 06, 2012

My daughter was jumped by three girls and only one girl got charged. She got a ticket and she got charged with 3rd degree assault. My daughter is constantly looking over her shoulder because it happened at school.

Now she has problems sleeping, she's jumpy and the school says the two girls who started it all have a right to get a proper education. Doesn't my daughter?

By anon155149 — On Feb 22, 2011

Anon81592, yeah you can for sure. Collect all the proof you can and take it to the police and tell them what's going on. He can't just harass you without punishment.

By anon142977 — On Jan 14, 2011

my friend's son is developmentally disabled; a 22-year old male but the cognitive equivalent of a child in kindergarten. he bit a house mate, and the mother has filed a criminal complaint of third degree assault. doesn't the reality that he is a vulnerable adult have any effect here?

By anon128118 — On Nov 18, 2010

Of course you could not get a restraining order, that's ridiculous. Restraining orders only apply to law abiding, moral US citizens.

By TimeTheorist — On Aug 16, 2010

@anon81592 - You would definitely be able to take legal action against him. Like the article says, which charges you would want to seek out depend on where you are. His actions absolutely qualify as harassment however, and you should seek legal counsel to figure out exactly how to pursue a restraining order. With all the evidence you have though, assuming you've held on to some of the stuff he's mailed you, you should have more than enough evidence for a relatively simple case. What he has done is wrong, and you are well within your bounds to take legal action. Good luck.

By anon81592 — On May 02, 2010

I'm an exotic dancer. Over a year ago I met a costumer in the club where I worked and I had an outside relationship with him apart from just the club.

He appeared to be an educated decent gentlemen we shared a lot of history and had a lot in common. However, he began to degrade me and lash out in bipolar tantrums so I dismissed his friendship. Well since then, he has continued to harass me by mailing letters and booklets he makes of me and my personal information, including pictures of my children and the club where I work.

He also called child protective services and made frivolous accusations in attempt to have my children taken out of his own spite for me. Would I be able to get a restraining order against him?

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison


Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a MyLawQuestions writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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