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What Is Aggravated Assault?
It might be confusing to differentiate between the various terms used for assault, such as aggravated assault and battery. According to both the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), aggravated assault, however, is one of the most common types of violent crime in the United States. In fact, there were an estimated 250 instances of aggravated assault per 100,000 Americans in 2019.
Aggravated assault occurs when there is an attempt to cause serious bodily harm with disregard for human life. The intent involved in the crime defines and separates aggravated assault. Types of aggravated assault include:
- Assault with intent to commit murder
- Assault with intent to commit any felony
- Assault resulting in serious bodily injury
- Assault with a deadly weapon
Several U.S. states have their own set of laws and penalties regarding the crime of aggravated assault, with most jurisdictions abiding by the U.S. Code. Assaulting a police officer or other public servant may also result in aggravated assault charges.
What Is the Aggravated Assault Penalty?
At the federal level, various forms of more serious or aggravated assault result in different penalties. For instance, according to the U.S. Code, you could face a fine, or a prison sentence of not more than 10 years, for “assault resulting in serious bodily injury,” and a potential fine and prison sentence of not more than 20 years for “assault with intent to commit murder.”
Charges of aggravated assault are more generally argued in state-level courts, however, and penalties can vary. Penalties for aggravated assault can range from fines of $150-$500 and four months to one year in county jail to as fines as much as $10,000 and jail time of up to 15 years in prison. In general, possible penalties for aggravated assault can include any of the following:
- Jail time
- Electronic monitoring
- Mandatory anger management classes
- Restitution to the victim
- Loss of the right to own or possess a firearm or weapon
Is an Aggravated Assault Charge a Felony or Misdemeanor?
It depends on the state where the alleged offense occurred and the facts of the situation. For example, in Florida, aggravated assault is considered to be a third degree felony. If you are found guilty of aggravated assault in Florida, you could face up to five years imprisonment (or five years probation) in addition to a fine of up to $5,000. This penalty is harsher if a firearm is discharged during the commission of the crime in question, leading to a mandatory prison sentence of 20 years.
In California, aggravated assault is informally defined as a “wobbler” offense, one which can be treated as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the severity of the crime (so it “wobbles” between the two distinctions). If you are found guilty of misdemeanor aggravated assault, you could face up to one year in jail, while those found guilty of felony aggravated assault in California face up to four years in state prison.
Common Aggravated Assault Defenses
Several common defense strategies used against criminal charges of aggravated assault include:
- Claims of having acted in self-defense (or in defense of another party)
- Defense of one’s home may also be a viable defense in certain contexts (and in certain amenable jurisdictions).
- Insanity could also be a viable legal defense in many cases of aggravated assault, particularly if the defendant has a history of mental illness or erratic behavior.
Consent may also be a mitigating factor in certain, very narrow circumstances if there is evidence supporting a claim that the physical altercation in question was consensual, such as part of a sporting event (eg. boxing, rugby).
You might also be able to claim that you have been falsely accused if there is insufficient evidence to prove that you were either present at the time of, or responsible for, the assault.
Do I Need an Aggravated Assault Attorney?
If you’re facing aggravated assault charges, it’s likely you’ll need to consult a criminal defense lawyer with experience in assault charge defense. Aggravated assault charges often become felony offenses, so it’s important that you take these allegations seriously.
The criminal justice system can be confusing, and it is difficult for a person without legal training to obtain the same results as an experienced attorney. Some of the ways a criminal defense attorney can assist you include:
- Explaining the allegations against you and realistically advising you of the potential consequences you may face
- Reviewing the police report for any errors or inconsistencies that may be beneficial to your case
- Challenging the introduction of illegally obtained evidence
- Helping you connect with resources that can potentially reduce any consequences you may face
- Being an intermediary between you and the court system
The criminal justice system deals with violent crime very seriously, and it is important to have an advocate protecting your rights.