Savannah Aggravated Assault Attorney
An aggravated assault charge is a serious offense that is punishable by steep fines and up to 20 years in prison, depending on the circumstances of the crime. A felony conviction remains on the individual’s permanent record, making it extremely difficult to find housing or apply for a job. The consequences of an aggravated assault conviction can be devastating. However, a charge is not a conviction, and the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed the crime. Therefore, it is imperative that the person who has been charged with aggravated assault seek immediate legal representation by a highly skilled lawyer experienced in criminal defense who understands the complexities of an assault charge and can recommend the best legal course of action.
What is Aggravated Assault?
A simple assault involves an attempt to injure another person or commit an act that presents a limited threat of violence toward another person. The act causes the victim to feel threatened and afraid. From a legal perspective, a simple assault is considered a misdemeanor, which is punishable by fines of up to $1,000 and a maximum of one year in prison.
According to the Official Code of Georgia, an aggravated assault is much more serious and occurs when an individual commits an assault with the intent to murder, rape, or rob. Although aggravated assaults often involve serious injuries, the victim does not need to be physically injured for the act to be considered aggravated assault. For example, if an individual threatens to kill another person while holding a gun, this is an example of aggravated assault because the victim is threatened with violence that could result in severe injuries or death.
Examples of aggravated assault include the following:
- Striking or threatening another person with a weapon or a dangerous object.
- Shooting a person with a gun or threatening to kill someone with a deadly weapon.
- Assault that results in a serious injury.
- Assaulting someone with the intent to rob or rape.
- Concealing one’s identity while threatening violence against another person.
- Assault against a police officer, health care provider, social worker, developmentally disabled person, or any other member of a protected class.
When an aggravated assault involves a deadly weapon such as a gun, a knife, or any other object that can inflict serious harm, it speaks volumes about the state of mind of the person who is in possession of the weapon and their intent to cause serious harm. In addition to handguns and knives, other objects that are used to inflict severe injuries are also considered deadly weapons. For example, cords, ropes, or even a person’s hands are considered a deadly weapon if they are used to manually strangle another person. If a deadly weapon is used during an aggravated assault, there is a much greater chance of a conviction, and the penalties are likely to be more severe.
What is the Difference Between Assault and Battery in Georgia?
Assault and battery are often used synonymously, but they are two different crimes. Both are very serious charges that come with potentially steep fines and lengthy prison time. Depending on the nature of the crimes, they may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
According to Georgia law, the main difference between assault and battery is intent. Simply put, battery always includes physical contact, whereas assault is the threat, either real or implied, of violence against another person. Simple battery is an intentional act of physical contact that is intentionally insulting or provoking and that is meant to cause physical harm to another person. Aggravated battery causes the victim serious harm, including broken bones, disfigurements, loss of a limb, or injuries that require hospitalization or surgery. Like aggravated assault, aggravated battery is a felony offense.
What are the Penalties of Aggravated Assault?
An aggravated assault is always categorized as a felony, so a conviction comes with serious penalties, which range in severity based on the circumstances of the crime. A person who is convicted of aggravated assault will face between one and 20 years in prison, up to 20 years of probation, fines of up to $100,000, and restitution, which involves reimbursing the victim for medical expenses, counseling, and other expenses related to the crime. Repeat offenders will be required to serve the maximum penalty as a result of their prior convictions. The court will impose minimum sentences if the assault involved certain types of victims. The following are examples of minimum penalties in aggravated assault cases.
Assault of a Correctional Officer
Any person who commits an aggravated assault against a correctional officer, or an officer of the court system who is performing the duties of their job, will face a minimum prison sentence of five years, with a maximum sentence of 20 years. The same prison sentence applies if an individual is convicted of aggravated assault involving an operator of a public transit vehicle, such as a commercial truck involved in interstate commerce.
Child Rape Aggravated Assault
This type of assault is considered particularly heinous, so the penalty is more severe. Any person who commits an aggravated assault with the intent to rape a child who is under 14 years old will face a minimum prison sentence of 25 years, with a maximum sentence of 50 years.
The following are additional examples of minimum sentences for aggravated assault:
- There is a three-year minimum prison sentence for any person who discharges a firearm from within a motor vehicle toward another person, assaults a family member, or assaults another person in a public transit facility or vehicle.
- There is a five-year minimum prison sentence for an aggravated assault against a student or teacher in a school safety zone.
- Discharging a firearm against a public safety officer comes with a minimum prison sentence of 10 years.
In some cases, the court may impose probation after the defendant has served a portion of their prison sentence. For example, instead of serving a five-year minimum sentence for aggravated assault, a judge may sentence the defendant to three years in jail and two years of probation. During the probation period, the person must follow all the conditions set by the court, including meeting with the probation officer on a regular basis, attending any required counseling sessions, and completing community service. If these conditions are violated, the person can be arrested and forced to serve the remainder of the sentence in prison.
A judge will typically consider a range of factors when determining a sentence in an aggravated assault case. For example, if the defendant appeared remorseful, took responsibility for the crime, and had no prior record, it could impact the judge’s decision and the severity of the penalty. Other factors that could also come into play include the circumstances of the crime, the severity of the injuries that occurred, and the type of weapon that was used. For example, if the victim of the assault is an elderly person, a police officer, or a disabled person, the penalties imposed will likely be more severe.
What is the Federal First Offender Act?
The Federal First Offender Act (FFOA) allows first-time felony offenders to be sentenced under deferred adjudication. The offender enters a guilty plea, even though they have not yet been convicted of a criminal offense. The accused will usually be sentenced to probation, although jail time might be included.
If the accused completes the sentence, an order of discharge without adjudication of guilt will be issued, which implies that the case is dismissed without a conviction. There are advantages and disadvantages associated with being classified as a first offender. A skilled lawyer will weigh the pros and cons and recommend the best legal course of action.
What are Defense Strategies in an Aggravated Assault Case?
If an individual has been charged with aggravated assault, there are a range of defense strategies that a criminal defense lawyer may use to build a strong case to ensure that the charges against the accused are either reduced or dismissed. The following are examples of effective defense strategies.
Challenging the Evidence
In an aggravated assault case, the prosecution must be able to convince the jury that the accused intended to commit the crime. One of the most effective ways to get a criminal case dismissed is to challenge the evidence. For example, the criminal defense lawyer will determine whether the arresting officer read the Miranda Rights to the accused before they were arrested. If a weapon that was involved in the assault was obtained through an illegal search, this may result in the case being dismissed. If the prosecution is unable to convince the jury that the accused intended to commit the crime, owing to a lack of evidence, unreliable evidence, or the accused’s constitutional rights were violated during the arrest, it is likely that the charges will be reduced or dropped.
To prove self-defense, the accused must be able to show that the use of force was necessary to prevent or stop the unlawful assault against them. The self-defense strategy will not stand if the accused provoked the attacker, engaged in another crime, or used force that exceeded the use of force against them. For example, if the accused stabbed a person in response to being shoved or punched, the court will not consider the behavior self-defense. In addition, if the accused used physical force in response to a strictly verbal provocation, the self-defense strategy will not stand.
Defense of Others
This is another effective defense strategy if the accused was coming to the aid of someone who was being beaten, robbed, kidnapped, or attacked in some way. If the accused committed aggravated assault against the attacker to protect the victim, this strategy may be used. For example, if the accused used force against a man after witnessing him attacking his wife, the accused’s actions may be justified. However, it is important to understand that the use of force must be proportionate to the situation. If the accused shoots an attacker who is seen shoving another person, the aggravated assault would not be considered self-defense.
Defense of Property
If the accused used reasonable force against another person to protect their property, this can be an effective line of defense. However, they must be able to prove that the victim of the assault was breaking and entering the property or unlawfully removing the accused from the home, office, or vehicle.
Establish a Solid Alibi
If the accused can prove that they were somewhere else when the assault occurred, it is likely that the charges will be dismissed. Witnesses, video footage, photographs, and credit card swipes can help build a solid alibi.
In some cases, an individual accused of aggravated assault may be able to prove that the other person consented to the crime. This line of defense is only used in limited circumstances, often involving athletes or some type of athletic event. To establish consent, the following requirements must be met:
- An individual cannot consent to actions that may cause serious bodily injury.
- The harm must be a reasonably foreseeable aspect of the conduct, and the risk reasonably accepted.
- The individual must receive some type of benefit from the conduct that justified the consent.
Savannah Criminal Defense Lawyers Represent Individuals Charged with Assault
If you have been charged with aggravated assault, it is imperative that you contact our Savannah criminal defense lawyers as soon as possible. We will thoroughly investigate the details of your case and prepare a defense strategy. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call Kicklighter Law today at 912-754-6003 or contact us online. We are located in Springfield, Georgia, and we proudly serve clients throughout Effingham County, Savannah, and the surrounding areas.