In 2021, the United States criminal justice system received more than 943,000 reported cases of aggravated assault. It’s a massive number showing how many people went through litigation for this crime.
What is aggravated assault, and how does it differ from assault and battery? What is the punishment for this crime? Is there any way to defend yourself when confronted with an aggravated assault charge?
This article discusses the definition of aggravated assault, including how aggravated assault differs from other crimes that involve threatening and injuring another person. Furthermore, this piece tackles the different defenses one can use when dealing with an assault charge.
Going through litigation is tedious, time-consuming, and stressful. You’ll have to build a defense and ensure you have good representation in court.
Building a defense requires you to recheck your history, especially if you have a previous record on file. A criminal record can dramatically reduce one’s credibility in court. Hence, it’s best to consult with your lawyer if this is your case.
You can also visit LookUpInmate.org to retrieve information stored in your state’s public records. You can also retrieve documents from arrests and previous incarceration.
What Is Aggravated Assault?
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, aggravated assault is the unlawful attack of one individual against another person to do severe or aggravated bodily harm.
The UCR program also states that aggravated assault typically involves using a weapon or any other means that will likely cause death or physical harm. When aggravated assault happens, the perpetrator usually displays or brandishes a weapon or threatens someone with its use.
Another factor of attempted aggravated assault is determined when the threat, once acted upon, will result in great bodily harm or serious injury. Once aggravated assault happens while committing larceny-theft, the offense will typically become robbery.
Elements of Aggravated Assault in the U.S.
An aggravated assault case can only be filed successfully if the elements of this particular charge are present.
Here are the elements that help determine whether the crime is aggravated assault or not.
1. Determining the victim: One major factor in determining assault and aggravated assault is knowing who the victims are.
If the assault is done against a protected class, or a group of people protected from discrimination, the case becomes severe. In fact, if the assault is part of a hate crime, it’s already considered aggravated assault.
A hate crime happens when someone commits violence based on a bias against another race, religion, color, sexual orientation, national origin, gender, or disability.
2. Determining the use of weapons: When an assault involves using a deadly weapon, it always becomes an aggravated assault, even if the item is not specifically used to hurt. If the offender can use the object to harm, then it’s considered a weapon used for assault.
3. Determining if there’s intent: Premeditation or planning something with intent aggravates a crime. A planned assault intending to cause serious bodily injury is enough to bump the charge into an aggravated assault.
Aggravated Assault Resulting in Serious or Great Bodily Harm or Injuries
States sometimes distinguish felonies by the severity of the personal injury inflicted on a victim. Simple assaults and misdemeanors may be charged for altercations that result in light to moderate bodily harm.
However, suppose the assault substantially threatens a person’s life or causes serious bodily harm with the risk of death. In that case, the crime rises to an aggravated assault level.
Serious bodily harm may include the following:
- Life-threatening injuries
- Substantial harm that’s enough to result in long-lasting pain
- Injuries that require medical intervention resulting in numerous stitches
- Injuries resulting in permanent scars, disfigurement, or disability
Aggravated Assault Involving a Deadly Weapon
Assault involving a deadly weapon will most likely result in an aggravated assault charge, especially if you’ve placed a victim in a life-threatening situation.
The deadly weapons are not only limited to knives and firearms. Let’s say the weapon was used to threaten or harm another person to the extent the victim fears for their life. In that case, it can be the basis for filing an aggravated assault charge.
Aggravated Assault Involving a Protected Victim
Aggravated assault can also be charged when the offender has involved or targeted a protected class of victims.
A protected class is a group of people protected by anti-discriminatory laws. The protected class includes women, children, people of color, prison personnel, police officers, and differently-abled people.
What Is the Definition of Assault?
A simple term for assault is an intentional act that causes fear of immediate physical harm to its victims.
However, for a conviction, an offender must have a clear intention to harm a person through threats of violence and that the victim has felt a genuine fear due to the assault.
Also, victims can still file an assault charge even if the offender’s threats cause no visible bodily harm as long as the victims genuinely feel fear because of the incident.
What Is the Definition of “Assault and Battery?
Some states have combined assault and battery to define a crime involving the intentional harming of a victim and the actual act of physical violence. However, distinguishing these two terms is no longer important to today’s legislators, who regard this term as defining a “completed assault.”
What Are the Differences Between Aggravated Assault and Simple Assault?
Sometimes the law requires specific definitions to ensure the punishment and penalty are proportional to the crime committed.
For this reason, crimes are specifically defined by law to guide judges and magistrates in giving sentences to criminal cases like assault.
According to U.S. law, there are simple assaults and aggravated assaults. These two types of assault charges are defined below.
Defining Simple vs. Aggravated Assault
States have different takes on the nature of the crime of assault. However, they all hinge on a typical foundation that assault is the intentional act to cause fear of immediate physical harm to its victims.
In most states, there are two common types of assault: simple assault and aggravated assault. The main difference between the two is the level of harm inflicted on a victim.
- Simple assault: The assault involves moderate bodily harm.
- Aggravated assault: The assault becomes aggravated once harm inflicted on a victim becomes severe and life-threatening.
What Are Some Examples of Aggravated Assault and Simple Assault?
Here are some examples of simple assault:
- Pushing a person
- Threatening to harm someone physically
- Grabbing another body part like an arm and inflicting pain
- Attempting to punch a person but misses
- Pulling another person’s hair
- Throwing objects at someone
Here are some examples of aggravated assault:
- Striking or injuring a person with a bat, knife, or any object
- Threatening to attack or harm someone with a dangerous object
- Shooting someone with a gun
- Pointing a firearm at someone while threatening to kill them
How Does the Prosecutor Prove Aggravated Assault?
The prosecutor will only succeed in filing a criminal charge like aggravated assault if all the elements or factors of the crime can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Beyond a reasonable doubt” is a legal burden required for a criminal case’s conviction. The success of an aggravated assault case relies heavily on the quality of evidence presented in court.
Suppose there’s no sufficient proof for the assault charge. In that case, the defendant may be tried on a lesser criminal charge, or the judge might dismiss the case entirely.
Is Aggravated Assault a Felony?
Most states regard aggravated assault as felonies. A felony is a severe crime, and offenders usually pay fines and face long prison time. States tend to categorize felonies into degrees or levels based on the severity of the crime.
What Are the Penalties for Aggravated Assault, Assault and Battery, and Assault?
Penalties for assault, assault, battery, and aggravated assault may vary in different states. Most states would place fines or a specified incarceration time as punishments.
Will Aggravated Assault Result in Jail or Prison Time?
Aggravated assault is a severe criminal offense not taken lightly by different states. Most guilty convictions result in prison time. Some states impose a minimum of 10 years for an aggravated assault conviction. Others have a maximum prison time of 20 years.
Simple Assault Penalties
Courts usually treat simple assault charges as misdemeanor cases. The penalties for a simple assault crime include fines and specific penalties set by state law.
Fines for simple assault may reach up to $1,000 in some states. Other states have jail time of six months to one year.
Mandatory or Enhanced Penalties in Aggravated Assault Cases
Mandatories are punishments that are prescribed by criminal law. Some states place mandatories for aggravated assault cases, which the judge imposes.
The judge has the authority to follow mandatories or give a longer prison term based on the gravity of the crime committed. Mandatory sentences also serve as a minimum penalty for a specific felony charge.
In Florida, the mandatory minimum for aggravated assault is three years of prison time.
Incarceration and Fines
Fines for aggravated assault are hefty. It can reach up to $20,000 in some states. Prison terms can range from 10 years to 20 years. However, the judge’s discretion is the ultimate determiner of fines and prison lengths.
Usually, judges give probation sentences for first-time defendants with non-serious crimes. Probation is an alternative sentence that allows convicted felons the chance to skip going to jail and instead go under a strictly supervised program outside prison.
A successful aggravated assault conviction, even if it results in prison time or probation, will likely lead the judge to issue a restraining order to protect the victims from the defendant.
Restraining orders prohibit the defendant from making contact with the victim in any manner possible. Violating a restraining order can lead to penalties or a revocation of probation.
Another form of penalty that can come from being convicted of aggravated assault is restitution or paying off the damages experienced by the victim due to the crime. The expenses may come in the form of medical and counseling bills and property damage.
One of the long-term consequences of being convicted of a felony is that the criminal case will go on your record.
Once a crime is etched on your public record, it’ll stay there for quite a long time. A criminal record can be problematic, especially if you want to secure a job after prison release or probation.
In time, you can seek to remove your criminal record by expungement. You need the help of a lawyer to guide you through this process. You’ll need to get all your documents concerning your arrest and conviction.
You can obtain these documents by visiting LookUpInmate.org. You’ll get access to more than 7,000 correctional facilities in the country. You can use our site’s records locator and get the documentation you need.
Aggravated Assault With a Firearm: Penalties and Sentencing
The use of a deadly weapon, like a gun, aggravates an assault charge. However, to be sentenced for aggravated assault with a firearm, evidence should be beyond a reasonable doubt.
In states like Florida, aggravated assault is a third-degree felony with a maximum prison time of five years or living under probation for five years. Also, you can be fined a maximum of $5,000. Remember that other states may have different prison times or fines.
How Long Do You Go to Jail for Aggravated Assault?
States have different statutes regarding the jail or prison sentence for aggravated assault. Depending on a state’s assault laws, a prison term can be as short as five years or as long as 20 years for serious cases.
What Defenses Can Be Raised in an Aggravated Assault Case?
When confronted with an aggravated assault case, it’s always best to seek help from a criminal defense lawyer. These legal experts can help you build a solid assault defense that can dismiss a case if you have strong evidence of innocence. In some cases, a strong defense can get you a lower sentence.
You can use the following methods to help you build a strong defense for an aggravated assault charge.
Suppose you have evidence proving that your harmful action resulted from self-defense. In that case, you can build a good defense against an assault charge.
Assault lawyers can browse through sworn statements, medical evidence, and witness testimonies to determine grounds for a self-defense claim.
Defense of Others
Some can use a defense that they’re just protecting a friend or a family member from harm like domestic violence. Aggravated assault charges can be mitigated by evidence that shows the lack of intent of someone to commit the violation.
You have the legal right to defend yourself and a legal right to stop a crime.
Defense of Property
You can also state that your action that caused the victim’s physical harm, injury, or even impairment is in defense of your property.
In situations where the victim may be a suspect of robbery or a trespasser, the case may turn against the plaintiff and force them to accept a settlement when the trial doesn’t go their way.
In Texas, there’s a Stand Your Ground law that protects property owners when defending what’s theirs.
Other Ways to Beat an Assault Charge
Another way to have a good alibi or proof that you couldn’t have done the crime is to show evidence that it was physically impossible to be at the crime scene on the specified date.
Remember that you can use these defenses if you have the services of a competent criminal defense attorney from law firms near you. Some firms provide free consultation services so that they can assess your situation before they take on the case.
Strategies for Defending Assault Charges
The best strategy to defend yourself from an assault charge is to ensure that you have legal help from competent lawyers who are experts in criminal law.
Building an excellent attorney-client relationship can also help fine-tune a defense against assault charges. It’s best to ask your lawyer to get all the necessary documents to help you establish your innocence.
Ultimately, the best defense is to avoid getting into these tight situations in the first place. Maintain a cool head, and avoid tense confrontations that can lead to harmful physical contact. Always take all avenues to de-escalate a situation.
What to Do if Arrested for Aggravated Assault
When you’re charged with aggravated assault, you’ll most probably get a civil and criminal case.
You should always get the services of a criminal defense lawyer to help you through the legal proceedings that will eventually follow. A judge may issue a warrant for your arrest, so be ready to spend time in jail.
Sometimes the court may permit offenders to post bail to gain temporary release from prison until the set trial date. During these crucial moments, you must remain calm, gather evidence proving your story, and call your attorney.
Importance of an Attorney
Attorneys are experts in the field of law they practice. They know the technicalities of the law and can help you weave through the litigation process.
Legal Help at Every Stage of a Criminal Case
A criminal defense lawyer handles the entirety of a criminal case. Legal professionals can get the necessary documents and evidence to tip the balance in the defendant’s favor.
If you need legal representation, getting one familiar with your state’s laws is best. Each state has a nuanced take on aggravated assault, which lawyers understand.
You should obtain legal representation the moment you’re getting an assault charge for you to have a solid defense in court.
1. Number of reported cases of aggravated assault in the United States from 1990 to 2021
2. Aggravated Assault
3. Learn About Hate Crimes
4. Assault, Battery, and Aggravated Assault
5. How Long Can You Go to Jail for Assault?
6. beyond a reasonable doubt
7. What Does Mandatory Sentencing Mean?