| Read Time: 3 minutes

If you’ve flown in recent years, you know how broad the category “deadly weapon” stretches.

When flying, you must not bring small knives, corkscrews, or knitting needles because, according to the TSA, those things can become deadly weapons.

Deadly weapons cover broad ground in California criminal law as well.

If you get into an altercation using an everyday object, you may be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. What does assault with a deadly weapon mean?

Here, we answer four questions surrounding assault with a deadly weapon.

What Is Assault with a Deadly Weapon?

Assault with a deadly weapon, as defined by the California Penal Code (CPC §245(a)), consists of an assault:

  1. Committed with a “deadly weapon.” 

To clarify that definition, assault under the California Penal Code means an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on another person.

Once the perpetrator makes contact, the crime becomes battery (or worse).

What Is a Deadly Weapon?

A deadly weapon is anything that can cause extreme injuries, including death, to a person. 

Firearms do not fall under the category of deadly weapons because they have other statutes governing their use.

A deadly weapon can include the following (and similar devices):

  • Baseball bats
  • Iron rods
  • Knives
  • Bricks
  • Ballpoint pens
  • Sharp pencils

Almost anything, with enough force applied to the tool, can become a dangerous weapon. The perpetrator does not have to intend to cause harm with the deadly weapon. The mere act of threatening someone with a potentially dangerous weapon qualifies as an assault with a deadly weapon. 

For instance, picture Tom and Jan cooking together in the kitchen. Tom gets angry while chopping cucumbers and lunges toward Jan with a sharp knife. Tom has no intent to stab Jan. However, Jan fears for her life. So, Tom committed assault with a deadly weapon.  

What are the Charges for an Assault with a Deadly Weapon?

Committing assault with a deadly weapon is a serious offense, punishable by time in prison.

The California Penal Code says that any person who commits an assault with a deadly weapon shall be punished by:

  • Imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or 
  • In a county jail for not exceeding one year, or 
  • By a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or 
  • By both the fine and imprisonment.

So, in our example above, Tom’s momentary lapse of judgment with the kitchen knife could cost him a lot. Tom could wind up spending four years in prison and paying the court system $10,000.

To prove you committed assault with a deadly weapon, the prosecution must show:

  1. You acted in a way that led someone to reasonably believe that you intended to harm them, and 
  2. You used a deadly weapon.

The prosecution must prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction of assault with a deadly weapon. 

In the example above, Tom met both criteria.

  • When Tom lunged at Jan, he met criteria #1. 
  • When he lunged at Jan with a knife, he met criteria #2.

If Tom lunged at Jan with a sharp pencil or a broken beer bottle, the result stays the same. Tom meets the requirements for assault with a deadly weapon.

However, a criminal defense attorney can protect you from these charges.

What are the Defenses to Assault with a Deadly Weapon?

In a criminal trial for a serious offense, the U.S. Constitution guarantees you the right to a trial by jury. The prosecution must convince the jury of your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Every juror must agree that you are guilty in order for a verdict to be released.

It is the job of your defense attorney to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of jurors. Your defense gives the jury some hesitance, legally known as reasonable doubt, about your criminal conduct.

What does assault with a deadly weapon means for your defense? Your attorney can use the following defenses:

  • You acted in self-defense. You thought you were in imminent danger of being killed or seriously injured.
  • You acted in defense of someone else. You thought someone else was in imminent danger of being killed or seriously injured.
  • You did not act willfully. You encountered a circumstance beyond your control that forced your action.

A skilled defense attorney determines which of these defenses best fits your case. Your attorney then attempts to persuade the jury that you are not guilty of assault with a deadly weapon. 

Defend Your Assault with a Deadly Weapon Charge 

The assault with a deadly weapon law carries harsh penalties and requires expert legal help. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys will listen to your story and offer your best legal strategy.

If you face a charge of assault with a deadly weapon, call us at The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, at once for a consultation at (619) 900-6902.

Take the first step in your defense by calling for this free and confidential consultation.

We’re ready and willing to help.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

Rate this Post

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars