What does Aggravated Assault mean?
Assault is a criminal action in which one person believes they are in eminent danger, the actions of the defendant (or tortfeasor) are intentional, and the plaintiff or victim of the assault perceives there could be immediate physical contact with the tortfeasor or aggressor. Physical contact does not have to be present for assault to occur, although the plaintiff must perceive that the threat of violence is real and have real fear for their personal safety.
If the assault actually involves violent physical contact and the aggressor or tortfeasor had the intention of causing serious physical harm with reckless disregard for human life, the charge can be elevated to aggravated assault, which is generally classified as a felony charge.
When can someone be charged with aggravated assault?
There are several factors which can increase charges from simple assault to aggravated assault. For example, if the perpetrator had a weapon such as a knife or a gun, the perpetrator’s intent was to kill or seriously harm someone, the perpetrator seriously injured their victim, or the victim was in a protected class based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation or disability.
Common types of aggravated assaults
As mentioned above, aggravated assault will vary from simply assault, which consists of minor injuries or threats without harm. If an assault is more serious, the tortfeasor will be charged with aggravated assault. The most common aggravated assault charges can result from any of the following violent actions:
-Hitting or striking someone with a deadly weapon
-Pointing a gun or large knife at someone and threatening to kill them
-Assaulting someone of a protected class
-Seriously injuring someone
Defenses against charges of aggravated assault
The state has the burden to prove their criminal aggravated assault case beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendants have several defenses they can use to defend themselves against the charges. For example, common defenses can include arguing the state has arrested the wrong person, the defendant acted in self-defense, the weapon was actually in the victim’s possession, or the defendant had no intent to commit bodily harm.
Penalties for Aggravated Assault
State laws for aggravated assault can vary. Assuming the charge is a felony charge, however, most states allow a sentence of one to twenty years in prison, although judges in some states may have some discretion for sentencing.
Judges may decide to lower the prison sentence if they believe the offender is remorseful, did not have a previous criminal record, and did not inflict serious physical injury. The judge may be less lenient, however, if the offense was committed against an elderly person or policeman or the crime was committed with a certain type of weapon.