“Assault,” from a legal standpoint, is a word with a very broad definition. A wide variety of different offenses can be prosecuted under Georgia’s assault statutes. Together with the often-accompanying charge of battery, the laws prohibiting assault are the main way Georgia law protects people who have been threatened or injured by another person.
For defendants and victims both, though, understanding what constitutes the varying degrees of assault charge can be a confusing area. Under certain circumstances, the exact same action could be considered assault or aggravated assault. Knowing what causes a simple assault charge to be elevated to the more severe aggravated assault charge is vital information for anyone facing prosecution for one of these offenses.
What Is Assault?
In Georgia, “assault” is defined as attempting to physically injure another person, or performing individual acts that cause another person to be reasonably frightened that they will be injured through a violent act. No actual injury has to occur for an assault to take place. If injury does occur, then the more serious crime of battery has been committed. Examples of assault include:
- Making a serious, intentional verbal threat (threats made in “the heat of the moment” usually aren’t considered to be serious and intentional)
- Throwing a punch that fails to connect
- Pointing a firearm at another person
- Steering an automobile towards another person
What Is an Aggravated Offense?
“Aggravated” is a term that can be applied to a number of different offenses under Georgia law. While the conditions for aggravating different charges vary, generally speaking, an offense becomes aggravated when it is particularly serious in nature or victimizes certain people who require additional protection under the law.
What Is Aggravated Assault?
In the state of Georgia, aggravated assault occurs when any person:
- Assaults another person with the intention to murder, rape, or rob them.
- Assaults another person with any weapon, device, or object that can be used to cause physical harm. (Note: The “weapon” used does not have to be something designed as a weapon, like a gun or a knife. Threatening to throw a full beer can or brandishing a heavy book like a club could be considered aggravated assault.)
- Assaults any person by attempting to strangle them with their hands or any other object.
- Discharges a firearm from a vehicle in the direction of another person.
As with simple assault, no actual physical harm needs to come to the victim for an aggravated assault charge to be filed.
What Are the Consequences of an Aggravated Assault Conviction?
Aggravated assault is considered a major offense in Georgia and carries significant penalties under state law. Prison sentences can range from one to twenty years, fines can reach as high as $200,000, and the offender may be required to pay restitution to the victim.
While aggravated assault by itself carries a minimum sentence of one year and a fine of at least $2,000, there are many additional aggravating factors that can significantly increase the minimum sentence:
- Aggravated assault against a public safety officer using a firearm – 10-year minimum sentence
- Aggravated assault against a public safety officer without a firearm – 5-year minimum sentence
- Aggravated assault against a person over 65 years of age – 3-year minimum sentence
- Aggravated assault in a public transit vehicle or station – 3-year minimum sentence
- Aggravated assault against a teacher or school personnel in a school safety zone – 5-year minimum sentence
- Aggravated assault against a family member – 3-year minimum sentence
- Aggravated assault with intent to rape a child under 14 years of age – 25-year minimum sentence
There are other aggravating factors that can lead to longer minimum sentences, higher fines, and other more severe penalties.
Additionally, an assault conviction is a felony, which can bring additional consequences:
- Felons may be deprived of their rights to vote and hold public office.
- Felons may suffer loss of professional licenses.
- Felons may lose the right to own or carry firearms.
- Felons may also find it difficult to find employment after their release.
What Are Some Defenses Against an Aggravated Assault Charge?
If you are charged with aggravated assault, there are some potential avenues for defense that may be open to you, depending on your circumstances:
Lack of Intent
If the prosecution cannot prove that the assault was committed with the intent to rob, rape, or murder the victim, you may be able to get the charge reduced to the lesser offense of simple assault.
If you committed the assault in an attempt to defend yourself from an attack, you may be able to get the charges dropped or win an acquittal in court.
Defense of Others
If you are able to prove that you committed the assault to defend one or more other people who were being attacked, you may be able to get the charges dropped or win an acquittal in court.
Consent of the Alleged Victim
While less effective than other defenses, if you can prove that the victim gave you consent to threaten them, it may prove to be a valid line of defense against an aggravated assault charge.
Whatever the circumstances of your aggravated assault charge, it is vital that you secure the right legal representation immediately to ensure that your rights as a defendant are being protected and that your argument is being made well and heard fairly.
Are you facing a criminal charge? Talk to Bushway Law Firm by calling 478-621-4995.
Gregory Bushway is a former prosecutor who has successfully served as a criminal defense attorney in Macon, Georgia, since 2013. Having worked on many different sides of the law, he knows your opponent and will fight for your rights. Tell us about your case today: 478-621-4995