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What turns assault into aggravated assault?

Everyone has seen perps arrested for aggravated assault on TV cop shows or read headlines about so-and-so being charged with assault. Most of us have a general understanding of these terms but there's still confusion about the difference between them in legal terms. This is important information to understand as it can mean the difference between simple fines or time in jail.

Law enforcement and the courts generally raise a charge to aggravated assault based on the following factors:

  • Was a deadly weapon used in the assault? The weapon doesn't actually have to do the damage to the victim. It just needs to be present. For example, if someone was brandishing a knife but only ever engaged in fisticuffs, the mere presence of the knife is enough to make it aggravated assault.
  • Who was the victim? In some states, assaulting a police officer, a teacher or a firefighter will automatically be considered aggravated assault. However, in order for the charge to stick, prosecutors have to prove that the accused knew the victim was performing their duty in one of those capacities at the time.
  • How bad was the injury? Even if no weapon was involved and the victim was a regular citizen, if the injuries are bad enough, the accused could be looking at aggravated assault charges.

If you're facing criminal charges like assault or aggravated assault, building a successful defense should be priority number one. An attorney may be able to help you do just that, and the result could be reduced or even dropped charges.

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