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Assault with a Deadly Weapon

PC 245(a)(1) – 245(a)(4)

Information on the crimes of assault with a deadly weapon can be found at California penal code section 245. There are dozens of variations of assault with a deadly weapon charges, but the most common assault charges include:

  • PC 245(a)(1) Assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm

  • PC 245(a)(2) Assault with a firearm

  • PC 245(a)(4) Assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury (GBI)


To assault someone means to intentionally use force against another person in an effort to harm that other person and the amount of force used against that other person was reasonably likely to produce an immediate injury.

Note: In assault cases, it does not matter if the defendant actually succeeded in injuring the other person. The act of trying to injure to another person is sufficient. For example, if a defendant purposefully shoots another person, but the bullet misses the other person, the defendant may be still be charged with assault with a firearm even though the other person was never it by the bullet (PC 245(a)(2).

Assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm is charged under PC 25(a)(1). PC 25(a)(1) includes knives, brass knuckles, bats, etc. (PC 245(a)(1)).


When a weapon is intentionally used by the defendant to harm another person, but the weapon used is not an inherently deadly weapon, such as a cell phone, lamp, pan, etc., the defendant might be charged with misdemeanor assault (PC 240).

A firearm includes handguns, shotguns, zip guns, rifles, and more (PC 245(a)(2)). If the gun used to assault someone else is a machine gun or an assault rifle the defendant may be charged with such under  PC 245(a)(3) and the maximum prison exposure is raised to twelve years (More on assault with a deadly weapon penalties below).


Assault with means likely to produce great bodily injury (GBI) is charged where the defendant does not use a weapon, but rather, uses intentional force against a person that is reasonably likely to severely harm that person. For example, pushing someone down a flight of stairs (PC 245(a)(4). This means harm beyond moderate injury.

Sentences for PC 245

Most assault crimes may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony (wobblers). The jail or prison sentence associated with a particular assault charge is as follows:


  • PC 240: simple assault is charged as a misdemeanor. The maximum sentence is up to one hundred eighty days in the county jail

  • PC 245(a)(1): assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm, or a vehicle, may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. Misdemeanor PC 245(a)(1) carries a maximum one year jail sentence. Felony PC 245(a) carries up to a four year prison sentence.

  • PC 245(a)(2): assault with a firearm may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. Misdemeanor PC 245(a)(2) carries a maximum one year jail sentence. Felony PC 245(a)(2) carries a maximum four year prison sentence.

  • PC 245(a)(3): assault with a machine gun or assault rifle is charged as a felony. The maximum sentence for PC 245(a)(3) is twelve years in prison.

  • PC 245(a)(4): assault with force likely to produce GBI may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. Misdemeanor PC 245(a)(4) carries a maximum one year jail sentence. Felony PC 245(a)(4) carries a maximum four year prison sentence.

Note: In some cases it might be possible to reduce a felony assault charge to a misdemeanor assault charge. Whether or not a reduction of any assault charge depends on the exact assault charge, the circumstances of the case, and the defendant's criminal history.

Three Strikes Sentencing: Assault charges of PC 245(a)(1), PC 245(a)(2), and PC 245(a)(3), are considered serious crimes as defined under California's Three Strikes Sentencing Law; these assault crimes are considered strike offenses. PC 245(a)(4) assault by force likely to produce GBI is not a strike offense. Suspended and split prison sentences are not available for felony assault crimes charged under PC 245(a)(1) or 245(a)(2). In addition, any incarceration for these crimes must be served in state prison as opposed to a local county jail.


Probation Sentence: Probation is a period of supervision in lieu of an actual jail or prison sentence. Probation sentences carry terms of probation that must be followed in order to avoid an actual jail or prison sentence. A probation sentence may be available in some assault cases charged under PC 245(a)(1), PC 245(a)(2), and PC 245(a)(3), if the judge finds there are unusual circumstances in the case; however, a probation sentence for PC 245(a)(4) assault with means likely to produce GBI does not require a judge to find that there are unusual circumstance before granting a probation sentence.

Crime of Moral Turpitude: Assault with a deadly weapon is crime involving moral turpitude, which means that the crime is considered to be morally wrong. Crimes involving moral turpitude carry special consequences for non United States citizens and defendants who possess professional licenses, such as doctors, dentists, lawyers, nurses, teachers, etc.

More Punishment for PC 245: In addition to any jail or prison sentence, criminal convictions for assault can lead to other severe consequences, including: harsh parole or probation terms, penalty fines and fees, civil lawsuits, restitution orders, restraining orders, employment loss, anger management classes, loss of rights, including the right to own a firearm, and more.

Defense to PC 245

Common defenses to assault with a deadly weapon charges include: insufficient evidence to prove the defendant intended to harm another person, intoxication, insanity, self-defense, defense of other people, statute of limitations (three years for felony PC 245(a)(1), PC 245(a)(2), and PC 245(a)(4)), mistake of fact, coerced confessions, illegal search and seizure, consent, alibi, and more. For more information on common defenses to PC 245, please visit Defenses to Crimes.

If you are charged with any assault crimes, including assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm, assault with a firearm, assault by means likely to produce GBI, or simple assault, contact our criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultations. Our team of successful and experienced attorneys, including experienced trial attorneys, will explain your rights and defense options. Call today!


Quick Reference​ Sheet

Crime: Assault with a Deadly Weapon

Code: PC 245(a)(1) (CalCrim No. 875)

Wobbler (Yes): PC 245(a)(1) is a wobbler crime. PC 245(a)(1) may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor.

Incarceration:Felony PC 245(a)(1) jail sentence range: 2, 3 or 4 years (if probation not granted). Misdemeanor jail sentence up to 1 year.

Probation: Probation may be available in some felony PC 245(a)(1) cases [unusual cases only] (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar a probation sentence are not present). Probation sentence in misdemeanor cases does not require unusual circumstances. Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.​

PC 1170(h)): No. PC 245(a)(1) is not subject to PC 1170(h) sentencing. This means that any incarceration ordered after a conviction, that is not part of a probation sentence, must be served in state prison (as opposed to a county jail), and the prison sentence may not be split or suspended.

Strike: Felony PC 245(a)(1) is a strike offense per California's Three Strikes law as this crime is considered a Serious offense (PC 1192.7). Strike offenses are subject to reduced good time credits in jail or prison in addition to other penalty enhancements upon subsequent criminal convictions.

Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.

CIMT: PC 245(a)(1) is a crime involving moral turpitude, which means that an arrest or conviction could lead to the following:

  • Immigration problems

  • Professional Licensing problems

  • Impeachment on credibility


Firearms: PC 245(a)(1) convictions bar defendant from owning or possessing a firearm for life.

Bail: $50,000 (Felony); $5,000 (Misdemeanor) (San Bernardino)

Note: More penalties, direct or indirect, may apply. Accuracy not guaranteed. No attorney/client relationship is formed by use of this info. If arrested, contact a criminal defense lawyer without delay. PC245(a)(1) Info.

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More Assault Crimes

  • PC 240 Simple Assault

  • PC 241.2(a) Assault on School Property

  • PC 241(c) Assault on Emergency Person

  • PC 241.8 Assault on Military Person

  • PC 242 Battery

  • PC 245(a)(1) Assault w/deadly Weapon non-firearm

  • PC 245(a)(2) Assault with a firearm

  • PC 245(a)(4) Assault by Force/Likely to Produce GBI