Oops: The Defense of Accident or Mistake in D.C. Assault Cases

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Oops: The Defense of Accident or Mistake in D.C. Assault Cases

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In the District of Columbia, if you are arrested for any type of assault crime, the government must prove that you acted intentionally.  While the government does not have to prove that you intended to injure the alleged victim, it does have to prove that you intended to commit the threatening act. Fortunately, the law recognizes that sometimes accidents happen.

Under the law in the District of Columbia, one of the defenses available to a client facing assault charges is accident or mistake.  By asserting either of the defenses of accident or mistake, you are admitting that you struck the complaining witness, but that the contact was accidental.

 

The defense of accident requires your D.C. assault lawyer to present evidence to the fact finder that convinces them that you accidently made contact with the other person. Accidental contact does not rise to the level of assault, because the necessary intent does not exist.  For example, let’s say you are charged with assault for shoving a person as you walked by them on the sidewalk. In reality, you accidently shoved the person because you tripped over a bump, or your untied shoe laces.  At trial, your criminal defense attorney would introduce evidence of the uneven sidewalk, or of you chronic shoe-tying problems to demonstrates that you had no intention of making contact with the complaining witness.

Another common example involves a defendant who accidentally hits a police officer while the officer is attempting to break up a fight between the defendant and another person.  These types of assaults are often charged as Assault on a Police Officer which can be either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the severity of the assault.

The defense of mistake is probably less common, and more difficult to present than the defense of accident.  There are two types of mistake defenses: mistake of law and mistake of fact.  However, courts in Washington, D.C.  have consistently held that ignorance of the law is no excuse, so mistake of fact is the only mistake defense a D.C. defendant can assert.

A mistake of fact happens when the objective of the defendant is proscribed by criminal law, but a circumstance unknown to the defendant prevents him or her from bringing about that object.  For example, to be convicted of Non-Violent Sexual Touching Assault, the government has to prove that you intentionally, on purpose and not by mistake or accident sexually touched another person.  At trial you could assert the defense of mistake of fact because you believed the victim consented to the touching.

In the unfortunate event that you are arrested for assault in Washington, D.C., it is imperative that you hire an experienced DC Assault attorney who can put forth the best defense possible for you and your case.  Attorney Jay Mykytiuk has successfully defended many clients against DC assault charges.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a DC Assault, call attorney Jay Mykytiuk immediately for a full consultation.