In criminal law, the term, “deadly weapon” refers to a firearm or any other object that is used or intended to be used in such a way that it could cause serious injury or death to another human being. 

Legally, the term covers objects that most people would not think of as deadly weapons. Defendants have been found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon for having wielded such things as baseball bats, knives and guns. Some examples include:  

  • Attacking someone with a piece of athletic equipment, such as a baseball bat;
  • Intentionally striking another driver or pedestrian with a motor vehicle; or
  • Running after a person with an ax.

What Types of Weapons Are Considered to Be Deadly Weapons?

Objects other than the obvious guns and knives can also be wielded as deadly weapons. For example, broken bottles, dogs, power tools, gardening tools, blunt objects, and boats have been used in the crime of assault with a deadly weapon.

The legal definition is broad to avoid any loopholes in determining what constitutes a deadly weapon. Essentially, any object that can cause great bodily injury or death can be considered a deadly weapon for purposes of assigning guilt for assault with a deadly weapon.  

Can Parts of the Body, such as Hands, Feet, or Teeth, Be Used as Deadly Weapons?

In some states, a person’s hands, feet, or teeth can be considered deadly weapons. Though the human body itself is not a deadly weapon, it can certainly be used in such a way as to cause another person great bodily injury or death.

Other states, such as California, specifically exclude the human body from the definition of a deadly weapon. However, California law also states that use of “any means of force likely to produce great bodily injury,” would warrant a charge for assault with a deadly weapon. If someone attacks a person by choking, kicking, or punching, they could face a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.

Can a Vehicle Constitute a Deadly Weapon?

Clearly a motor vehicle can be considered a deadly weapon, if the driver intends to hit another driver or pedestrian. Some driving under the influence cases also lead to a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.

What is Assault with a Deadly Weapon?

An assault is any act intended to create a reasonable fear of imminent harm in another person. If a deadly weapon is used in the assault, then the crime becomes assault with a deadly weapon. It is usually charged as a felony offense. 

It is important to remember that the crime of assault does not involve any actual physical contact. The crime of assault is committed where there is an intentional attempt to physically injure another. Or, if it is an assault if there is a menacing or threatening act or statement that causes the other person to believe they are about to be attacked. 

In some states, such as California, it is a so-called “wobbler”, meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the facts of the case. The importance of this difference is the punishment. In California, misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon can be punished by up to a year in jail, while the felony crime can be punished by up to four years in prison.  

A defendant who is found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon might also be required to pay a fine.  In California, a fine of up to $10,000 can be imposed as punishment for conviction of felony assault with a deadly weapon.

Are Deadly Weapons the Same as Illegal Weapons?

The weapons that are considered deadly weapons for the purposes of an assault with a deadly weapon charge might also constitute illegal weapons. Items such as billy clubs, switchblades, and cane swords can cause serious injury or death. 

Whether it is illegal to possess such weapons depends on the law in the state where a person lives. For example, a baseball bat is not an illegal weapon, of course, but it can be considered a deadly weapon if used in the course of the crime of assault or battery. On the other hand, a switchblade is a deadly weapon and possession of a switchblade is illegal in some, but not all, states. The law differs from state to state.  

Should I Contact an Attorney If I Am Facing a Deadly Weapon Charge?

If you are facing a charge of assault with a deadly weapon, you should speak to a criminal defense attorney immediately. It is especially advisable to speak to an attorney before you talk to the police. Your lawyer will be able to advise you of your rights, guide you through the legal process, and represent your best interests in court. 

The punishment for conviction of assault with a deadly weapon charge can involve a lengthy period of imprisonment, so it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. If you are facing a charge of assault with a deadly weapon or even possession of an illegal or offensive weapon, you want to have a good criminal defense attorney on your side.