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What Makes an Assault Charge Aggravated?

Aggravated Assault in California

Most people think of assault as physical violence against someone. However, that is not the case in California. Battery is the act of willfully and unlawfully inflicting force or violence upon another, not assault.

In California, assault is defined as an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury to the person of another. If convicted, you will get fined up to $1,000 and/or spend a maximum of 6 months in jail. As such, you don’t even have to lay a finger on another person to get accused of assault. Merely waving your fist in someone’s face could warrant assault charges.

Other examples of assault include:

  • Threatening to kill someone
  • Swinging a punch and missing
  • Brandishing a deadly weapon
  • Throwing an object at someone and missing

What Are Aggravating Factors?

When a crime is labeled as “aggravated,” things can go from bad to worse. This is because aggravating factors increase the severity or culpability of a crime, meaning the penalties upon conviction can be much more devastating than those for a charge absent of aggravating factors.

Examples of aggravating factors include:

  • Prior convictions
  • Repeat offenses
  • Vulnerability of victim (I.e., children and elderly adults)
  • Involvement of a weapon
  • High-degree of harm

Aggravated Assault vs. Assault

With the above information in mind, it makes sense why aggravated assault charges are worse than assault charges. Aggravated assault shows reckless conduct or extreme indifference to human life. While California statutes do not explicitly define “aggravated assault,” crimes that are more severe than simple assault include:

  • Assault with a deadly weapon: Punishable by 2 to 4 years in prison and/or up to $10,000 fines.
  • Assault with a firearm: Punishable by 2 to 4 years in county jail and/or up to $10,000 fines.
  • Assault with caustic chemicals (i.e., vitriol, corrosive acid, and flammable substances): Punishable by up to 4 years in state prison and a fine to be determined by the judge.
  • Assault by any means of force likely to produce great bodily injury: Up to 4 years in prison and/or $10,000 fines.
  • Assault with a semiautomatic firearm: Up to 9 years in prison and a fine to be determined by a judge.
  • Assault with a firearm upon a peace officer: Up to 8 years in prison and a fine to be determined by a judge.

Defenses to Aggravated Assault

Considering what’s at stake in these cases, the question begs, “How do I defend myself against aggravated assault charges?” With the help of a good attorney, you may be able to help get your charges reduced or dropped altogether by using one or more of the following defenses in your case:

  • Self-defense
  • Law enforcement officer acting in the scope of your duties
  • Lack of intent/accidental
  • Mistaken identity
  • Police misconduct
  • Insanity
  • Intoxication

While an assault charge can be frightening under any circumstance, know that there is hope. The sooner you work with an experienced criminal defense attorney, the better. Reach out at (707) 418-5352 to learn your next steps!

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