What is Second Degree Assault in Maryland?

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Second-degree assault is one of the most commonly charged offenses in Maryland. Almost any confrontation that turns physical without resulting in serious bodily harm can be charged as second-degree assault. Domestic violence scenarios are the most common types of second-second degree assault cases our attorneys handle. But, we do see a fair number of bar brawls and neighbor disputes that turn ugly and end with someone, if not everyone, getting charged with assault in the second-degree.

Our team has experience with the full spectrum of second-degree assault cases, ranging from arguments between strangers to run-ins with police officers. Baltimore assault defense lawyer Randolph Rice breaks down a number of laws and facts about second-degree assault that you may not know.

What is Second Degree Assault in Maryland?

Second-degree assault is a crime that prohibits a person from injuring or attempting to injure another person. Second degree assault is codified under Maryland Criminal Law 3-203. It is the lesser of the two assault crimes in Maryland, the other being first-degree assault. Examples of assault in the second degree are:

  • Slapping;
  • Punching;
  • Spitting on another person intentionally;
  • Pushing;
  • Hitting;
  • Striking another person with an object;
  • Using a vehicle to hit another person or another person’s vehicle;
  • Biting;
  • Chocking;

Types of Second-Degree Assault in Maryland

Second-degree assault charges can include the crimes of assault and/or battery. Second-degree assault is the lesser of the two possible assault charges in Maryland. First-degree assault is a more serious charge. Police and prosecutors often charge an individual involved in a serious physical confrontation with both first and second-degree assault, especially if the fight escalated from a second to a first-degree situation.

There are three variations of second-degree assault that a person can be charged with:

  1. 1. Intent to frighten
  2. 2. Attempted battery
  3. 3. Battery

These three variations do not change the underlying crime, they are merely the theories the State can proceed on when trying to prove the crime.

1. Intent to Frighten

Intent to frighten is a type of second-degree assault. If an individual intentionally intimidates another person with the threat of immediate physical contact or physical harm, that individual could be charged with second-degree assault. A clear cut example of intent to frighten would be an agitated person charging towards someone while wielding a hammer.

2. Attempted Battery

Someone who attempts to commit battery or assault may be charged with second-degree assault, even if that individual never touches the other person. Attempted battery is trying to cause offensive physical contact or physical harm to another person. For example, if person A tries to hit person B, but misses, person A committed attempted battery on person B.

3. Battery

The terms battery and assault can be used interchangeably. Battery is the offensive physical contact with another person and thus an assault in the second degree. While you may often hear the terms “assault and battery” used at the same time, they are not, in fact, separate criminal charges. An example of a battery could be punching, slapping, hitting or even spitting on another person.

Second-Degree Assault Penalties in Maryland


Individuals convicted of second-degree assault may face up to 10 years in jail. In addition to a possible sentence of ten years in jail, the maximum fine for second-degree assault in Maryland is $2,500.

Second-degree assault penalties vary depending on the facts of the case, the Judge, and the States Attorney’s recommendation. Our Maryland second-degree assault lawyers have the experience necessary to gauge the sentence an individual is facing based on the specifics of the case. We also are well-positioned to negotiate with prosecutors and fight for fair sentences in court.

Second-degree assault is almost always classified as a misdemeanor in Maryland. Only one type of second-degree assault is classified as a felony. In Maryland, second-degree assault is classified as a felony if the victim is a law enforcement officer and suffers physical injury.

If both of these conditions are met, then second-degree assault is classified as a felony, with a maximum sentence of ten years in jail and a $5,000 fine. Felony second-degree assault cannot be expunged.

If an individual is charged with felony second assault of a law enforcement officer, they could be facing a felony conviction if a judge or jury finds that the officer suffered physical injury. “Physical injury” means any impairment of physical condition if law enforcement is the victim and does not include minor injuries to the law enforcement officer.

How to Get an Assault Charge Dismissed in Maryland

The state’s attorney may dismiss a charge of assault, however, they usually do not dismiss charges until the trial date. If the victim and the defendant agree to the dismissal of charges, the state may dismiss the case. However, the decision to dismiss assault charges lies squarely within the discretion of the state’s attorney prosecuting the case.

Related Reading: How to get second-degree assault charges dropped in Maryland?

There are various defenses to the crime of second assault in Maryland. Under Maryland law, a person charged with second-degree assault may assert many possible defenses, including:

  • Defense of others
  • Defense of habitation by using deadly force
  • Defense of property by using non-deadly force
  • Duress
  • Insanity
  • Mistake of fact
  • Self-defense

Our Baltimore, MD Assault Defense Lawyers Can Help You

Second-degree assault charges are complicated and often involve witnesses, credibility and outside factors that may be introduced at trial. With the assistance of an experienced Baltimore criminal defense attorney, you may have a legal defense to win your assault case. If you are facing second-degree assault charges in Maryland, contact Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 to schedule a free consultation.


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