A fourth-degree assault is the lowest level of assault charge in Washington state, but it is still a very serious charge. Any conviction for assault is a conviction for a violent crime, which can have severe impacts on your future.
In general, the Washington State Legislature explains a fourth-degree assault charge results when your actions do not qualify as a higher degree assault. It focuses a lot on domestic violence, especially when it comes to elevating the charge from a gross misdemeanor to a class C felony.
Domestic violence includes any type of assault against a romantic partner or household member. It can include people related to you or someone with whom you were in a previous relationship.
You can face a fourth-degree charge for any domestic violence that does not qualify as a higher-degree assault. However, the law includes conditions that elevate the charge to a class C felony instead of a gross misdemeanor, which is the basic charge for a fourth-degree assault charge.
Elevation to a felony can occur if you have two or more charges within the previous year for assault in the first, second or third degree, harassment or repetitive domestic violence. This also includes any comparable charges made by other jurisdictions. This did not change. The wording of the law focuses the elevated charge on assaults against intimate partners.
While this may be a little confusing, the changes essentially mean a fourth-degree assault charge will not increase to a felony unless it is a matter of violence against a romantic partner.