Certain criminal offenses, such as assault, carry strict penalties on their own if defendants are convicted. However, when authorities suspect that the defendant has used a weapon in the situation, the penalties can become much worse. In Washington State, using a firearm in certain situations may lead to a charge of first-degree assault.
As defined by Washington law, first-degree assault can involve the use of a firearm, or "any other deadly weapon," in a manner that is likely to cause significant physical harm or death to someone else. First-degree assault charges can also stem from a variety of incidents that involve the intent to cause another great bodily harm, from the administration of poison to the exposure of the HIV virus. Assaulting a person with a deadly weapon can also be construed as assault in the second-degree in Washington.
Assault in the first degree is categorized as a Class A felony, an extremely serious offense. Felony convictions can bring lengthy prison sentences, huge fines and other devastating penalties. A skilled criminal defense attorney, however, can assess a defendant's situation before the law and aid in constructing a solid defense against felony gun charges or related accusations.
The state of Washington has what is known as a "three strikes law." Under this law, a person who has accumulated three felony convictions involving violence may be put behind bars for a lifetime. At the felony level, Washington considers assault convictions to count as strikes under the three strikes law. In order to increase one's chances of avoiding another strike, it may be wise for those facing weapons charges to secure legal help.
Source: Washington State Legislature, "RCW.9A.36.011 Assault in the First Degree," accessed Nov. 20, 2015