What is aggravated assault?

People that find themselves with an aggravated assault charge might be wondering what it is, especially if it’s their first run-in with the justice system. Once you understand what aggravated assault is, your next step should be finding legal counsel.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Mar 16, 2022

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  • Although assault, aggravated assault, and battery are similar crimes, aggravated assault charges result from physical attacks that caused either severe injury or death
  • You can also get assault charges by threatening someone, including miming violence, aiming a gun at them, or chasing them with a deadly object
  • Aggravated assault charges depend on the severity of the assault and the state it was committed in, and can result in years of prison time

When one person harms (or threatens to harm) another person, they’ve committed the crime of assault, battery, or both. An assault charge comes with serious consequences which can impact your life for years to come.

When assault carries the threat of seriously injuring or killing someone, the charge becomes aggravated assault. Aggravated assault is defined as purposefully threatening or attempting to cause bodily injury to another. Suppose aggravated assault comes from assault with the intent to murder, rape, or assault with a deadly weapon. In that case, the punishment is usually harsher than with a simple battery or assault charge.

No matter if the aggravated assault comes from assault with the intent to murder, rape, or assault with a deadly weapon, the punishment is usually harsher than it is with a simple battery or assault charge.

So, what is aggravated assault? Read on to learn more about this severe charge, and you can get legal advice about how to handle this charge by contacting our legal experts.

What is aggravated assault, simple assault, and battery?

Regular assault covers many territories. At its core, assault is any willful attempt or threat to injure someone else. While the simplest example of assault is striking someone, you don’t have to make physical contact to commit assault. As long as someone has a reasonable fear for their safety due to your actions, an assault has happened.

Keep in mind that state laws play heavily into the definition of assault. What one state considers assault, another might declare as battery, intimidation, menacing, or reckless endangerment.

Aggravated assault is assault taken to another level. Rather than fearing for their safety, a person must fear for their life.

One of the most common ways to get an aggravated assault charge is when a weapon is involved. Don’t let the term “deadly weapon” confuse you. It doesn’t have to be a traditional weapon like a knife or gun. Aggravated assault can happen with a screwdriver, a wrench, or even a heavy flashlight. The defining characteristic is not the nature of the weapon but the intention of the person holding it.

Aggravated assault leads to either someone fearing for their lives or a severe or fatal injury.

Battery differs from assault by the intention behind the crime. The battery happens when there is any unlawful physical contact between people. Assault (or aggravated assault) occurs when a perceived threat is behind the physical contact.

Aggravated Assault Examples

The legal definition of aggravated assault can sound a bit confusing. To better understand what aggravated assault is, consider the examples below.

  • Pointing a gun at someone
  • Shooting someone to harm or kill them
  • Striking someone with a weapon or potentially dangerous object
  • Any assault that results in serious injury
  • The assault occurs in the victim’s home
  • Restraining someone before you injure them
  • Assaulting someone to commit another felony, such as rape or robbery
  • Assaulting someone while you conceal your identity
  • Committing an assault against specific people, such as minors, police officers, social workers, disabled people, healthcare providers, or seniors

These examples also apply to the threat of assault. For example, if you chase someone with a baseball bat but never catch them, it could be counted as aggravated assault.

Is assault a felony?

The way an assault is charged depends on the severity of the crime. A simple assault will usually carry a misdemeanor sentence.

On the other hand, aggravated assault is a felony in most cases. In 2018, more than 135,000 Americans served time in prison for either a simple or aggravated assault charge.

As with most crimes, the amount of time you’ll get for aggravated assault depends on the state. Some states carry a minimum sentence if the assault includes a gun (for example, Pennsylvania has a minimum sentence of five to 10 years). Others have mandatory time in prison if the crime involves a minor or senior.

The number of convictions you have will also play a role in the amount of prison time you might get. A judge will be much more lenient on your first assault charge than your third.

You should avoid getting an aggravated assault charge no matter what state you live in. Even if you don’t spend time behind bars, an assault charge can affect you for years.

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What are the consequences of aggravated assault?

The exact punishment for the crime of aggravated assault will vary by many factors, including the injuries you inflict on another person.

As previously discussed, an aggravated assault sentence might come with jail time. Some states assign a few months for a first conviction, while others assign years.

You’ll more than likely face fines, too, which also depend on the state. Some aggravated assault charge may be less than $1,000, while other states charge steep penalties over $10,000.

Other potential consequences include probation, electronic monitoring, court fees, anger management classes, loss of your right to own a firearm, and restitution to the victim.

You’ll also face the stigma of having an assault charge on your record, especially if you’re charged with a felony. Having a felony in your background can affect your ability to get a job, rent an apartment, or buy a house.

What happens if you’re charged with aggravated assault?

If you find yourself with an assault charge, you should talk with a lawyer. The American justice system can be confusing, and you’ll want someone to guide you through the laws since the consequences can be severe.

If you live in a “three-strikes” state, such as California, New York, or Florida, a felony assault charge counts as a strike. You’ll definitely need the services of a knowledgeable lawyer in these states, especially if you’re on your third strike and facing life in prison.

No matter the circumstances of your crime, you deserve legal representation. Depending on your offense, your lawyer has several defense options to choose from, including consent, official acts, or prevention of crime.

Consent is argued when the victim agrees to the risk of bodily harm. This includes injuries from games, sports, horseplay, surgery, and cosmetic procedures like piercings.

Prevention of crime will be argued if you were trying to protect either yourself or someone else or defending your property. To use the defense of your property, your lawyer will need to prove to the court that you were protecting your property from destruction or theft and used a reasonable amount of force.

Find the Legal Help You Need After Aggravated Assault

No one wants to find themselves at the mercy of a judge, but life is full of unfortunate situations. No matter how you got the charge, you should contact a lawyer for legal help as soon as you possibly can.

Now that you know what aggravated assault is, you probably have a better idea of what type of legal help you need. Even if you have no idea where to start, we offer the legal advice you need to navigate your charges.

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