Criminal Lawyer Explains Willful Injury in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, criminal prosecution


A willful injury is an unjustified act intended to cause serious injury to another. It is a Class “C” felony if the person causes serious injury and it is a Class “D” felony if it causes bodily injury to another.

The model criminal jury instructions recommend that an “assault” is to be described by the jury instructions:

1.        On or about the _____ day of __________, 20__, the defendant (set forth acts of assault).

2.        The defendant specifically intended to cause a serious injury to (victim).

3.        (Victim) sustained a [serious] [bodily] injury.

For this proposition, the instructions cite to State v. Mikesell, 479 N.W.2d 591, 591-92 (Iowa 1991)

In Mikesell, the Iowa Supreme Court examined whether a Defendant was denied a requested instruction for a lesser included offense of assault causing bodily injury (which lacks as an element the intent to cause serious injury), for a spontaneous fight. The Supreme Court noted:

“The district court submitted to the jury two lesser-included offenses, assault with intent to inflict serious injury and simple assault. The jury rejected these lesser-included offenses and found Mikesell guilty of the crime charged, willful injury. Mikesell has appealed from the resulting conviction. He contends the district court erred by refusing to submit, as an additional lesser-included offense, the crime of assault without the intent to inflict a serious injury but resulting in bodily injury. See Iowa Code § 708.2(2).

The State does not appear to disagree that the crime of assault causing bodily injury under section 708.2(2) is a lesser-included offense of willful injury and could validly have been submitted here. However, the State argues that, because the jury rejected other lesser-included offenses, Mikesell suffered no prejudice from the court's failure to submit assault causing bodily injury as an additional lesser-included offense. See State v. Nowlin, 244 N.W.2d 591, 596 (Iowa 1976);  State v. Drosos, 253 Iowa 1152, 1164-65, 114 N.W.2d 526, 533 (1962).

We disagree with the State’s position regarding lack of prejudice. Under the posture of this case, the submission of assault causing bodily injury as a lesser-included offense was the only way to let the jury consider Mikesell's primary theory of defense. Under that theory, Mikesell essentially conceded that he committed an assault and that a serious injury resulted. He argued only that he lacked the intent to inflict the serious injury. This theory of defense coincides with the elements stated in section 708.2(2) for the crime of assault without the intent to inflict a serious injury but causing bodily injury.”

Under the circumstances set forth in Mikesell, it appears that Willful Injury is a “felonious assault” for purposes of the forcible felony statute requiring prison for any felonious assault because it includes the lesser included offense of assault. However, the forcible felony statute specifically excludes Class “D” felony willful injury.

Sometimes willful injury causing bodily injury, Class “D” felony, is a negotiated amendment to the initial charge of assault with intent to cause serious injury pursuant to a plea agreement because they both require the intent to cause serious injury, but Class “D” felony willful injury does not require prison. 

If you or a loved one has been arrested for an Iowa OWI (DUI), contact DAC-LAW PLC at 319-389-4276 or

for an initial consultation today. However, remember that a blog is not legal advice and that sending unsolicited information to an attorney over the Internet does not establish an attorney-client relationship. 

DAC-LAW PLC - Cedar Rapids OWI-DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyer

305 2nd Avenue Suite 200

Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401


Serious Injury Intent can turn a bad day into a felony. If you or a loved one has been arrested for willful injury with the intent to cause serious injury, either causing bodily injury or causing serious injury, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Waterloo, or other Iowa community, contact DAC-LAW PLC today at 319-389-4276.  

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