Aggravated assault is an attempt to cause serious bodily harm to an individual with disregard for human life. Factors that raise an assault to the aggravated level typically include the use of a weapon, the status of the victim, the intent of the perpetrator, and the degree of injury caused.
States classify certain assaults as aggravated under their criminal codes. They may also use more specific names such as assault with a deadly weapon. Often, aggravated assaults qualify as felonies, while simple assaults can be misdemeanors. Many states have multiple degrees of criminal charges for aggravated assault.
Use of a deadly weapon during an assault constitutes aggravated assault. This applies whether or not the weapon causes physical injury to anyone. Basic assault does not require physical harm, but rather that the perpetrator behaves in a way intended to put someone in reasonable fear for their safety. Someone who does this by threatening the person with a deadly weapon commits aggravated assault because the fear involved is fear of more grievous injury.
Weapons classified as deadly weapons typically include things which could cause death or serious injury. Some weapons fit this bill including guns. Whether or not other objects constitute deadly weapons depends on the manner in which they are used in the assault. For example, a pocket knife is generally not considered a lethal weapon, but if held to a victims neck, it could be deadly.
Some assaults become aggravated depending on the status of the victim. For example, many states punish assault on police officers, fire fighters and even teachers as aggravated assault. Typically, for such an assault to rise to the level of aggravated, the victim must have been performing his or her duty when assaulted and the perpetrator must have known of the victims status.
In addition to possible punishment for aggravated assault, assaults on members of certain protected classes can constitute hate crimes. These can include assaults based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability of the victim.
The mental state of the perpetrator can also push an assault from simple assault to aggravated. If he or she acted with the intent to cause severe harm or fear of severe harm, an assault can become aggravated. Depending on the state, reckless behavior can also constitute aggravated assault for example when someone acts with reckless indifference to human life, but without the specific intent to injure any particular person. If a dangerous or deadly weapon is involved, an assault may become aggravated even without any specific intent to injure.
More serious injuries to the victim can cause an assault to become an aggravated level. In most states, assaults causing serious bodily injury qualify as aggravated assaults. The seriousness of an injury will vary greatly from case to case. Injuries threatening death will qualify as a serious injury, as will those which maim or disfigure the victim. Some states specify by statute particular injuries that qualify as serious. If a method of assault which would normally cause death only causes more minor physical injury, some states will still punish it as aggravated assault (or even attempted homicide).
Since aggravated assault covers such a wide range of circumstances, a detailed examination of the facts of your case is critical to developing a successful defense. A knowledgeable local attorney can help explain the details of local assault statutes and examine the facts of your case for potential defenses. Find an experienced criminal defense attorney near you and get some peace of mind.