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What Does Aggravated Assault Actually Mean in Criminal Cases?

What Does Aggravated Assault Mean in Criminal Cases?
If simple assault is an act of violence that generates a fear of imminent bodily harm in the victim; aggravated assault is a severe form of assault that involves serious bodily injury. Here is a brief overview of this crime.
Sonia Nair
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
According to the 2013 Crime Statistics released by the FBI, the arrest rate for aggravated assault in the country during the year, was 118.8 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Law can be broadly categorized into two sections - civil and criminal. Civil law deals with private wrongs, i.e., disputes between private parties. Such wrongs include torts or violation of contracts, and they affect the person or property of private individuals. In case of a civil wrong, the aggrieved party approaches the court for redressal in the form of damages (compensation).

Unlike civil wrongs, criminal wrongs or crimes are those acts that are classified as wrongs against the state and are forbidden by law. According to law, such wrongs threaten public safety and welfare. In case of a crime, the state files action against the accused. If the charge against the accused is proved, he is punished with imprisonment, fine, or even death penalty.
What is an Assault?
Man assault on woman
So, most of the wrongful actions are classified as civil or criminal. However, there are certain acts that can give rise to both civil and criminal liability. In other words, certain acts are considered as civil wrongs as well as crimes. Assault is one such act that can be a civil wrong and a crime, at the same time. It is defined as an act that creates an apprehension of imminent bodily harm, in another person.
Simple assault involves threatening to cause imminent harm, and may include touching the person or causing minor bodily harm to the victim. The main elements include the wrongful and intentional violent action of the accused, and the extreme fear generated in the victim due to such action. Such a threatening action is considered as assault, and if the action causes bodily harm, it is considered as battery. However, this distinction is not accepted in some states, where both these actions (threatening as well as causing bodily harm) comprise a single wrongdoing - assault.

While the state may initiate action against the accused in a criminal court, the victim can file a civil assault case as the plaintiff. The victim has no role in conducting the criminal case, as the public attorney is in charge of the case. However, the victim can conduct the civil assault case on his own, without the intervention of the public or district attorney.
What Does Aggravated Assault Mean?
The offense termed assault is classified into different types in different jurisdictions. They include simple assault, sexual assault, aggravated assault, etc. As the name rightly suggests, aggravated assault is a serious form of simple assault.
Aggravated assault involves threatening with a deadly weapon, and causing serious bodily harm with or without a deadly weapon. If a person threatens another with a raised fist, the action can be considered simple assault. If he points a gun and threatens another (or shoots the victim), the action is considered as aggravated assault. There are certain factors that make a simple assault an aggravated one. They include malicious intention of the assailant, use of force or deadly weapons that cause intense fear and/or serious bodily injury (in the victim), the degree of injury, and the status of the victim. An assault committed with the intention of rape, murder, or robbery, is an aggravated assault. If the assailant asks for money, placing a gun on your neck, it amounts to aggravated assault with the intention of robbery. An assault on an elderly person or a police officer is also an aggravated assault. An assault that causes serious bodily injury is an aggravated assault.
Use of a Deadly Weapon
Assault with a weapon
Aggravated assault is often done with the intent of committing a serious crime, with a deadly weapon. Even a small knife can be considered deadly, if it was used in such a way, to cause serious harm. If the assailant places the knife on the neck of the victim, while threatening the latter, the action may amount to aggravated assault. So the circumstances of the case matter, while framing charges against the accused.
Identity of the Victim
This is another factor that may play a major role in classifying a simple assault as an aggravated one. In some regions, assault on a pregnant woman is considered as an aggravated assault. Assault on a disabled or elderly person also comes under the category of serious crimes. The same applies to assaults on on-duty police officers and firefighters. Strangulating someone is an aggravated assault. Attacking a child under a certain age may also come under this category.
If the crime was premeditated and the assailant intended to cause or caused serious bodily harm to the victim, it is termed as first degree aggravated assault. If the crime is not a premeditated one, but was committed on the spur of the moment, it can be considered as a second degree aggravated assault. If the assailant intended to cause significant bodily injury instead of serious ones, the crime is a third degree aggravated assault. Less serious crimes are categorized as fourth degree aggravated assaults.
Is Aggravated Assault a Felony?
While simple assaults are treated as misdemeanors, aggravated assaults are often considered as felonies that are classified as serious crimes. Penalties for aggravated assaults depend on factors like the gravity of the offense and the state in which the crime was committed. In some regions, where these crimes are treated as misdemeanors, the punishment may include a fine of around $150 to $500 and an imprisonment term of four months to one year. If considered as a felony, a person accused of aggravated assault may be punished with a fine of up to $10,000 and an imprisonment term of up to 20 years. A convicted felon may not get a job easily, and is not entitled to basic rights. He may not be allowed to renew any professional license.
Defenses for Aggravated Assault
Self defense
Self defense is a defense that is commonly used by those who are accused of an aggravated assault. A defendant can always argue that the victim started the fight, and he was defending himself or his loved ones. The defendant may also argue that he committed the assault, while trying to protect his property. Another defense is lack of malicious intent. The defendant can argue that the act was accidental and not intentional. The counsel for the defendant can raise the defense of mental illness. He can argue that the defendant is mentally ill, and is unable to control his behavior.

Consent of the victim is another defense that can be raised by the defendant. This defense is usually raised in case of games like wrestling, surgery, etc. As the status of the victim is an important factor , the defendant can argue that he was not aware of the status of the victim, while committing the crime.
In short, aggravated assault is considered as a serious felony. If you are charged with that offense, consult an experienced criminal attorney to conduct your case. Stay away from such crimes and avoid the repercussions.