Sat 02 Dec, 2023 Criminal Defense

How to Beat a PL 120.00 Assault Charge

If you are charged with a Penal Law (“PL”) 120.00 assault charge, an experienced NYC criminal lawyer may be able to help you beat your case.

PL 120.00 is a misdemeanor offense, which is a low-level crime. If you are convicted, you will have a criminal record, and you can face up to one year in jail. Your criminal record will show up on a background check. Therefore, it’s important to take the charge seriously and make sure you strategically navigate your case to get your charges dropped.

Fortunately, many defenses exist for a PL 120.00 charge, so a lawyer may be able to get your case dismissed. This article discusses the common ways to beat a PL 120.00 assault charge.

Elements of a PL 120.00 Charge

Subdivisions 1 and 2 are the most common forms of PL 120.00 assault.

PL 120.00(1)

Known as “intentional assault,” subdivision 1 of PL 120.00 occurs when:

  • With intent to cause physical injury to another person;
  • A person causes such injury to such person or a third party.

Therefore, to be guilty of intentional assault, a person must intend to cause physical injury to another person, and the person must actually cause physical injury. If the person ends up injuring a third-party whom he didn’t intend to injure, he can still be guilty of assault so long as he intended to injure someone. For instance, if a person swings a fist at someone with intent to injure the person but misses and hits someone else, he can still be found guilty of assault on the third-party.

PL 120.00(2)

Known as “reckless assault,” subdivision 2 of PL 120.00 occurs when a person recklessly causes injury to another person.

Although less common than intentional assault, the prosecution will charge people with assault when they act recklessly. For instance, if a person is on a crowded sidewalk and pushes someone out of the way and the person falls to the ground, they may be guilty of reckless assault. Even if the person didn’t intend to injure the other person, their action of pushing was arguably reckless under the circumstances, and therefore the person could be guilty of reckless assault if the victim was injured.

is one of the most common criminal offenses in New York. Subdivisions 1 and 2 of PL and the prosecution typically charges a person with  

Common PL 120.00 Defenses

Although many defenses exist for PL 120.00, the most common ones are biased witness, no injury, and self-defense. To be clear, sometimes multiple defenses can be used in a case. An experienced assault lawyer can help you analyze your case to determine the best defense strategy.

Biased Witness

Many assault cases occur within the context of domestic violence. In other words, many alleged assaults involve family members, such as a husband and wife.

Unfortunately, many people are wrongfully arrested for domestic violence when they did nothing wrong. Relationships are hard, and people understandably become very emotional when relationships fall apart. Partners can resent each other, which can result in them exaggerating allegations or even making completely false allegations.

Therefore, when a person is falsely accused of assaulting his partner, a skilled criminal lawyer can cross examine the alleged victim to expose biases and motives to lie. For instance, a couple might be going through a divorce proceeding, and the alleged victim wants child custody. The alleged victim’s desire for child custody may be a significant motive to lie and wrongfully accuse a person of assault. Further, when relationships fall apart, partners sometimes have so much anger towards the other that they will lie just to hurt the other person.

If you are charged with assault in a domestic violence context, a seasoned lawyer can make sure the jury understands the alleged victim’s biases and motives to lie.

No Injury

In many assault cases, the prosecution can’t prove that physical injury occurred. For instance, in many fights the alleged victim calls the police and says the defendant punched her. The police end up arresting the defendant, but the alleged victim has no visible injury. In such cases, the defense of “no injury” applies.

New York defines “physical injury” as substantial pain or impairment of physical condition. In cases where the prosecution puts forward no objective evidence of substantial pain or impairment of physical condition, your criminal lawyer may be able to get your charges dropped.


The most well-known defense to assault is self-defense.

A person may use physical force against another person when he believes it is reasonably necessary to defend himself or others from what he believes to be the imminent use of unlawful physical force by such other person.

In a nutshell, if you are using physical force against another person to protect yourself, then your use of force is not illegal. However, self-defense laws apply only if you were not the initial aggressor. If you start a fight and the person punches you back, you won’t be able to argue self-defense if you continue to attack.

Other exceptions to self-defense apply, so if you are charged with assault you should contact a criminal lawyer to make sure that you use the proper defense strategy.

Need Help?

If you are charged with PL 120.00 assault, contact Cody Warner, P.C. for a free consultation. Cody routinely handles assault cases, and he can make sure that you put forward the best defense.