Assault is an incredibly broad category that encompasses a variety of offenses. In general, an assault occurs any time the offender causes bodily harm to the victim. An assault conviction can also be passed down in cases where the offender only threatened to cause harm to the victim.
Aggravated assault is a more severe form of assault and typically involves the use of a weapon that could be deadly. There are also numerous other scenarios that could elevate an assault charge to an aggravated assault charge. These scenarios pertain to the type of victim, the intent of the offender, the extent of the resulting injuries and even the location where the assault took place. We'll discuss the particulars of these scenarios in the sections that follow.
Basic assault occurs any time the perpetrator causes physical harm to the victim. However, an attacker can also generate an assault charge by merely threatening to cause harm. In order for a threat to qualify as assault, the victim must have reason to legitimately fear for their safety. Thus, an idle threat would not necessarily result in a charge of assault if the attacker did not actually intend to follow through on the threat. If the victim truly believed that they were at risk, then the threat would constitute assault. In most cases, simple assaults are charged as misdemeanors.
Escalating to Aggravated Assault
Each state has its own specific requirements as to what constitutes aggravated assault, and in most cases, this offense is charged as a felony. Depending on the jurisdiction where the offense took place, there may be multiple degrees of aggravated assault, each resulting in different penalties. Oftentimes, these different degrees of aggravated assault have more specific designations in the criminal code. Though the exact requirements may vary by state, here's a look at some of the most common situations that can result in an assault charge being upgraded to an aggravated assault charge.
Assault with a Deadly Weapon
Any time an offender uses a deadly weapon in the course of an assault, the charge will be elevated to aggravated assault. This holds true regardless of whether the weapon was actually used to harm the victim. As long as the perpetrator had a deadly weapon and threatened to use it, the charge will be aggravated assault. This is because there is far greater risk to the victim when a weapon is involved than if the perpetrator was using just their own body. With a weapon, the victim's injuries are likely to be far more severe, and there is the risk of death.
To be classified as a deadly weapon, the weapon in question must have the capability to kill the victim. Guns are always considered deadly weapons, as well as large knives. Other weapons can also qualify as deadly, depending on how they are used in the assault. For example, a baseball bat used to hit someone on the leg would not be considered deadly, but if it was used to hit the victim in the head, it likely would meet the requirements to qualify as deadly. Similarly, a pocket knife would typically not be deemed a deadly weapon, but if it was held to the victim's throat or wrist, it could be considered deadly.
The Victim's Identity
Certain classes of victims get more protection from assaults than others. In many cases, these victims are those in public service, like police officers and fire fighters. In some cases, teachers and government workers can also be included in this category.
It is important to note, though, that this consideration only comes into play if the victim was in the process of performing his or her job duties when the assault took place. For example, if an off-duty police officer was attacked in a bar, this would likely be considered a basic assault, not aggravated. If, on the other hand, the officer was attacked while providing security for a parade, this likely would be considered aggravated assault.
The attacker also needs to be aware of the victim's status when completing the assault. If an officer was undercover, meaning that there was no way for the attacker to know that the victim was a member of the police force, the charge would not be escalated. If the officer was in uniform at the time of the assault, it would qualify as aggravated.
In addition to that charge for aggravated assault, an assault charge can become a hate crime if the attack was based specifically on the victim's status. This includes things like race, religion, sexual orientation and more. A hate crime is an even more severe charge than aggravated assault.
The Attacker's Intent
The intent of the attacker can also come into play in escalating a basic assault charge to aggravated assault. If the attacker's intent was to cause significant harm or to strike fear into the victim that they were at risk of serious harm, this constitutes aggravated assault. If a deadly weapon was used in the assault, this will result in an aggravated assault charge, even if the attacker did not intend to actually harm the victim.
In some states, certain reckless behaviors can also be considered aggravated assault, even if the action was not intended to harm a specific victim. For example, driving a car down a street designated solely for pedestrians demonstrates a lack of regard for human life. In this case, the attacker would likely be charged with aggravated assault, even though there wasn't a specific target for the attack.
The Extent of the Victim's Injuries
In most cases, if the victim is severely injured, the courts will likely charge the perpetrator with aggravated assault. Any injury that could possibly result in the victim's death, like an injury that causes severe bleeding, will likely be termed aggravated assault.
Injuries that can permanently maim or disfigure the victim are also often considered aggravated assault. This could include things like slashing the victim's face with a knife, injuring their spine or irreparably crushing the bones in their leg, to name a few possibilities. Of course, there are many other possibilities in this category. The examples listed are designed to give you a general idea of what might constitute aggravated assault, not to list all possible offenses. Each state sets its own rules as to what is considered a serious injury.
Finally, if the attacker's method would typically cause death, like shooting the victim with a gun, but only caused a minor injury, like if the shooter missed and the bullet only grazed the victim, many states will still charge this as aggravated assault. This is because the intent was to seriously harm or kill the victim. In some cases, this type of attack can even be punished as attempted homicide.
Aside from the primary factors already discussed, there are several other scenarios that often result in aggravated assault charges. For example, if the attack took place in the victim's home and the attacker was not also a resident, the offense can qualify as aggravated assault. If the victim was under the age of 18 at the time of the attack, the charge will likely be aggravated assault, regardless of the extent of the injuries.
Sexual assaults are considered to be their own category of assault in most states. However, depending on the specific details of the situation, the prosecutor may decide to add on a charge of aggravated assault as well, particularly in cases where the victim was underage or if the sexual attack resulted in serious injury to the victim.
Punishment for Aggravated Assault
In nearly all states, aggravated assault is considered to be a felony charge. This means that it comes with much steeper penalties than a basic assault, which is usually considered a misdemeanor. The specific penalties vary by state, so it would be unwieldy to list them here. However, there are some common threads across the country.
For starters, someone convicted of aggravated assault will typically have to pay a fine. This can range from $1,000 to $10,000, depending on the state and the severity of the offense. Jail time is another possibility, but again, this varies by state. If an offender is incarcerated, it will typically be for a period of several years.
The courts also have the option of imposing additional penalties, like anger management classes, community service and restitution to the victim, to name a few possibilities. These additional penalties are up to the court's discretion.
Aside from the legal punishments, those who are convicted of aggravated assault often find it difficult to gain employment after being released from prison. This is because most employers are wary of hiring someone who is known to have a violent past, as it could put their customers and other employees at risk. An aggravated assault conviction can put a strain on the offender's personal relationships as well.
A convicted felon will no longer be eligible to vote in local, state and national elections. They will also not be able to serve on a jury or purchase a firearm. Repeat offenders could be sentenced to life in prison under the three-strikes rule.
Defending Against an Aggravated Assault Charge
If you have been charged with aggravated assault, there are a few possible routes for your defense. First of all, you will not be held responsible for the victim's injuries if the victim consented to the attack. While this may seem like an unusual scenario, it can come into play in areas like boxing gyms where members fight one another for practice or if the victim and attacker were engaging in rough horseplay that unintentionally went a bit too far.
Your second option for defense relates to the prevention of another crime. For example, if you attacked someone who was in the process of committing another crime in an event to stop that crime, you likely would not be charged with aggravated assault, as your actions were intended to protect yourself or others.
Finally, aggravated assault charges can be avoided if you were protecting your personal residence or property. However, the results in these types of cases can be quite subjective, so you'll need to discuss the specifics of your case with your attorney. Your results will likely depend on the extent of your retaliation against your attacker, compared with the severity of the initial attack.
Getting Professional Legal Assistance
Aggravated assault is a serious offense, so you don't want to leave your fate in the hands of a public defender or try to represent yourself in this matter. It is well worth the extra expense to hire a professional attorney who has experience in this area to give yourself the best possible chance of generating a favorable result.
Here at Sex Crimes Attorney, we have a lot of experience in handling all types of assault cases, including basic assault, sexual assault and aggravated assault. If you have had aggravated assault charges brought against you, we will do everything in our power to help you avoid jail time and minimize the impact of the charge on the rest of your life.
When you work with us, we'll start by examining all of the specific details of your case. This will enable our attorneys to formulate a plan for your defense based on the particulars of your case. We recognize that no two assault cases are exactly alike, and we promise that we will always take an individualized approach to each new case, giving your case the personalized attention it deserves.
We'll start off with a free, no-obligation consultation so that you can get to know your attorney right from the start. Once your attorney has reviewed your case and gone over your defense options with you, it will be up to you to decide if working with us is right for your needs and preferences. This is quite a personal decision, and we will never pressure you in any way. Feel free to take as much time as you need to come to your final decision.
We welcome you to get in touch with us to learn more about our legal services in this area. Our associates are always happy to answer any questions you have about aggravated assault, our process and your next steps. We want to ensure you have everything you need to make an informed decision about working with us. We want you to have confidence that you made the right choice.
Reach out to Sex Crimes Attorney at 888-666-8480 today to learn more about us and schedule your free consultation with one of our aggravated assault attorneys.