The penalties for aggravated assault can be severe. A conviction can lead to lengthy prison sentences and serious impact on your career, family and future. It can also impact your ability to get employment, obtain housing and maintain custody of children. Moreover, a criminal record can lead to long probation and parole periods that will interfere with your daily life. A conviction may even prevent you from gaining citizenship or working as a law enforcement officer or in the military.
In order to convict someone on an aggravated assault charge, the prosecutor must prove all aspects of the crime, called the “elements” beyond a reasonable doubt. These elements include the alleged intent and the aggravating circumstances. An experienced criminal attorney can help you determine whether or not the prosecutor has proved these aspects and may be able to reduce the charges to simple assault.
Some states have different types of aggravated assaults, but most classify them in one of three degrees: second degree aggravated assault, third degree aggravated assault and fourth degree aggravated assault. Second degree aggravated assault occurs when a person causes serious bodily injury to another under certain severe circumstances. Serious bodily injury includes injuries that cause loss of function in a body part, permanent disfigurement or a substantial risk of death. Examples of this type of injury include shooting someone with a gun or pointing a gun at them and threatening to shoot them, throwing a vase at them and causing broken bones or other serious lacerations, choking a victim and putting their life in danger, or attacking a disabled person or elderly person who is vulnerable to attack.
Third degree aggravated assault is similar to second degree aggravated assault in that the prosecutor must prove that you committed an act that places a person in fear of serious physical harm or attacks a police officer, emergency first responder, school employee, social services worker or developmentally disabled or elderly person while concealing your identity. This type of assault is more common than the other aggravated assault charges and can occur in a variety of ways. For example, if you kick or punch someone in a bar fight and they fall down, this could qualify as aggravated assault because you put them in fear and attacked them while concealing your identity.
Fourth degree aggravated assault requires that the perpetrator possess a deadly weapon and commits an aggravated assault while committing a felony or fleeing from a felony. A deadly weapon is any object that can cause death or great bodily injury, including a handgun, knife or large rock. A person can be charged with this type of aggravated assault when they point or display a gun at a law enforcement officer, even if the weapon is fake. This is because the person exhibited an extreme indifference to the value of human life.
There are a number of viable defenses to aggravated assault charges. For example, if you are not guilty of any kind of assault and can prove that there was no intent to hurt the victim, the prosecutor must reduce the charges to simple assault. Moreover, if you can provide a verifiable alibi and the prosecutor cannot find any evidence that you were actually at the scene of the incident at the time of the offense, you can also have the charges reduced to simple assault.