In order to understand aggravated assault, you must first understand the crime of assault and battery. In criminal law, assault is defined as an intentional act that causes a fear of imminent harmful or offensive touching; battery is defined as an intentional physical act that results in a harmful or offensive touching of a person without that person’s consent.
Simply put, an aggravated assault is a more serious form of assault and battery, which may result in a criminal felony charge. Many states typically classify assaults as either simple or aggravated, depending on the severity of harm that occured, or the harm that was likely to occur if the assaulter would have struck the victim. Additionally, some states may further classify aggravated assault as first degree, second degree, or third degree assault, based on the seriousness of the harm inflicted.
Aggravated assault typically consists of physical actions that cause serious bodily harm, such as an assault made with a deadly weapon (i.e. a gun, knife, brass knuckles, etc.), or an assault involving another aggravating factor.
Other aggravating factors may include the status of the victim, the intent of the assaulter, or the degree of injury that was inflicted. Sometimes specific state laws name the aggravating factor, such as assault with a deadly weapon or assault with intent to carry out another crime.
As noted above, aggravated assault is a serious crime and as such carries serious criminal charges and consequences. The penalties for aggravated assault are typically the same as they are for a conviction of normal assault and battery, but the punishments are heightened to a much higher degree.
The penalties for aggravated assault may include:
- Long term imprisonment;
- The crime becomes part of your permanent record;
- Significant fines, heightened from the criminal fines imposed for a simple assault;
- Loss of your right to possess deadly weapons; or
- Other civil liability, such as having to compensate the victim for their injuries, pain and suffering, etc.
As noted above, the likelihood of the aforementioned penalties depend on your particular situation and several different factors, including:
- Degree of Harm: The severity of the aggravated assault and the harm that occurred. Typically, the more serious the injury caused to the victim the more likely it is for an assault to rise to an aggravated level. In many states, assaults that cause serious bodily injury, threaten death, or cause disfigurement qualify as aggravated assaults;
- Prior Convictions: Prior convictions of the accused. If you have previously been charged with crimes of assault and battery, a consecutive criminal charge will be heightened;
- Use of a Deadly Weapon: Whether or not a deadly weapon or any other instrument was used in the commission of the crime. It is important to note that basic assault does not require physical contact, but rather the intent to put someone in reasonable fear for their safety. Thus, someone who threatens another with a deadly weapon, even if contact is not made, may still be charged with aggravated assault due to the higher degree of fear involved;
- Victim’s Status: The status of the victim, whether they are elderly, a child, disabled etc., also plays a role in aggravating the crime of assault to an aggravated assault. Other statuses of victims that states punish more severely include assaults made on police officers, teachers, fire fighters, or other public servants. A victim’s race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or sexual orientation may also play a role; or
- Intent of the Perpetrator: The intent of the assaulter also plays a role in aggravating the crime of assault. If a person acts with the intent to cause severe harm or fear of severe harm, or acts with reckless indifference to human life, an assault will typically become aggravated.
There are a variety of defenses available to the crime of aggravated assault, such as self-defense, no proof of a deadly weapon, a violation of your constitutional rights at the time of arrest, or reacting to a perceived threat, amongst others. The proper use of a defense may lessen or dismiss the charges against you altogether, but they must be asserted properly.
Therefore, gaining the assistance of a skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney early on is a must in order to successfully assert a valid defense.
As can be seen, the crime of aggravated assault is a serious matter that carries very severe criminal penalties. Thus, if you find yourself in a situation where you are being charged with an aggravated assault, it is essential that you immediately consult with an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.
A licensed and experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to inform you of your rights, properly assert any valid defenses, and help you navigate the complicated criminal legal system.
Alternatively, if you are a victim of an aggravated assault, you should immediately contact your local authorities. Further, you should also contact a criminal lawyer to see what other options that you have.