Aggravated assault is a type of assault that displays a disregard for human life and an intention to inflict serious bodily harm. A misconception of assault is that there must be touching. An assault does not require touching another person. An assault is the intentional causing of imminent harm to another person. When an offensive touching occurs, it is a battery. The following are considered when determining if an assault should be charged as an aggravated assault:
- The status of the victim
- The degree of injury caused
- If a weapon was used
- The perpetrator’s intention
Some states have laws that classify certain circumstances as aggravated assault automatically. Other states might use the term assault with a deadly weapon instead. Depending on the state’s laws, different types of aggravated assault may be charged with differing degrees of criminal charges. In general terms, an assault is often a misdemeanor, and an aggravated assault is a felony.
The Status of the Victim
The “status of the victim” refers to if the victim was acting in an official capacity at the time of the assault. For example, if a firefighter, police officer, or teacher was assaulted while they were performing their duty, many states classify this as aggravated assault. The perpetrator must have known or reasonably should have known that the victim was acting in an official capacity.
It can also refer to if the victim was a protected class and that was the reason behind the attack. This is classified as a hate crime. Protected classes could be things like:
- Sexual orientation
- National origin
The Degree of Injury Caused
If the victim suffers serious injuries, then the assault is likely to be charged as aggravated assault. Some states will name particular injuries in their aggravated assault laws; others will define it as life-threatening injuries. In most states, a method of assault that would usually be deadly will be charged as aggravated assault or attempted homicide, even if it only causes minor injury to the victim.
While sexual assault is usually charged as its own type of assault, a violent sexual assault may also attract aggravated assault or battery charges along with rape or sexual assault charges.
Assault With a Deadly Weapon
If the perpetrator uses a weapon during the assault, even if it does not injure anyone, it becomes aggravated assault. A deadly weapon is a weapon that could reasonably cause serious injury or death, like a gun or a knife. Some weapons may be classified as a deadly weapon because they are used in a lethal manner, like a pocket knife being held to the victim’s throat.
An assault is defined as acting in a way that makes the victim fear for their safety. Aggravated assault is when the victim has a fear of serious injury because of the perpetrator’s actions.
The Perpetrator’s Intention
The intention of the perpetrator when they assaulted the victim will be factored into whether they are charged with assault or aggravated assault. If they intended to cause severe harm, then it will be aggravated assault. In some states, actions that show recklessness and indifference to human life will be charged as aggravated assault too.