What is the Difference Between Sexual Assault and Aggravated Assault?

Assault is a common criminal charge, often occurring alongside domestic violence, bar fights, and other similar events. While assault is a general legal term, it can be combined with other types of crimes, some are extremely serious.

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is an attack on another person, which causes serious bodily harm. Regular assault does not have to result in bodily harm. Instead, someone could be fearful of immediate harm but not actually harmed. Aggravated assault is a more serious crime which requires bodily harm to have occurred.

So, what does “bodily harm” mean here? It means that you have injured another person in a way that causes them pain, at a minimum. It could be as little as a cut and be more severe, like a bruised cheek or broken bones.

Charges could get worse if you were carrying a gun. Even if you did not use the gun, carrying a deadly weapon could increase a simple assault charge to aggravated assault. In some cases, assault with a deadly weapon could be a separate and distinct charge, above and beyond the aggravated assault charge you may also face.

You could also face these increased charges if you were carrying what could be considered a deadly weapon, even if it is not a gun. A deadly weapon could be a baseball bat, knife, or other inherently dangerous item.

Examples of aggravated assault:

  • Assaulting someone of a protected class, like a police officer, elderly person, disabled person, or social worker
  • Assault while committing another felony
  • Brandishing a gun or other deadly weapon during an argument
  • Breaking another person’s bones
  • Hitting someone
  • Shooting someone
  • Striking someone with a deadly or dangerous weapon

Proving and Defending Aggravated Assault

To prove you committed aggravated assault, the prosecutor must prove:

  • That you intentionally threatened an attack, or you actually attacked another person
  • That you used a deadly weapon, inflicted serious bodily injury, assaulted someone in furtherance of a felony, or targeted a protected class

You can always claim that the police arrested the wrong person, that you were not there and that it was actually someone else who committed the crime. You will need sufficient evidence to prove this, however, and it is not always easy.

You may be able to claim that you were acting in self-defense. If the other person attacked you first, you can argue that you were simply defending yourself. You will also need evidence to prove this assertion, which could be a witness who could testify that the other person attacked you first, or it could be video footage showing exactly what happened.

Finally, you could also argue that your actions were entirely accidental and that you intended no harm. This could be more challenging to prove, but you again could use witnesses to prove the assault was entirely accidental.

Aggravated Assault Penalties

Aggravated assault is a felony, which means that it is punishable by at least one year in prison and up to 20 years. The judge or jury will have discretion on how serious of a penalty to impose, and if it is your first offense, a judge may go easy on you, but that is not a guarantee. If you have been charged with other crimes along with aggravated assault, you may face many years in prison.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is different from aggravated assault in that there is some sexual activity which occurs. Sexual assault can also be aggravated, which usually means the aggressor used a weapon or threatened additional harm to the victim.

Here is what usually takes sexual assault to the level of aggravated:

  • You used a deadly weapon or threatened additional violence during the sexual assault.
  • You actually caused serious bodily harm to the victim.
  • You acted with extreme indifference to human life.
  • You intended to or attempted to kill the victim or another person.
  • You committed sexual assault with at least one other person.
  • A rape drug was used.

Penalties and Defenses to Sexual Assault

Sexual assault of a child is an additional crime, leading to harsher penalties. Even if the victim is not a minor, you could still face at least one year in prison, as sexual assault is a felony. Depending on the severity of the assault and if you have been convicted of previous crimes, you could face upwards of 25 years in prison.

The judge or jury has some discretion of the level of penalty to impose on you. So even if you are found guilty, you can express remorse for your crime, which could potentially help to reduce the penalties you face.

Most likely, you will also need to register as a sex offender. This is a penalty which could follow you for the rest of your life, limiting where you can live and work. This is one area where a judge and jury have almost no discretion to remove this penalty. If you are convicted of sexual assault, you may be required to register as a sex offender.

In extreme cases, you may face a mandatory life sentence. Except for these most extreme cases, if you are convicted and sentenced to prison, you may have to be on probation after your release from prison. While on probation, you will be supervised by your probation officer and required to adhere to certain rules, some extremely strict. You may not be able to drink alcohol or even visit a bar. You cannot be seen with other convicted felons. And there will be restrictions on where you can live and work.

You may also be subject to regular and random drug testing, community service hours, and be ineligible to purchase a gun or other weapon. A violation of probation could result in you going back to prison or spending some time in jail. Be aware that even seemingly minor violations could result in serious consequences.

If you are convicted of sexual assault, you will also face mandatory treatment. Whether in prison or during your probation after release, you will be required to attend group or individual counseling, sex offender programs, and may even be required to take certain medication. While on probation, your probation officer will also test you to ensure you have these medications in your system. If your drug test results do not show evidence of these meds, you could be sent back to prison.

Your best defense to a sexual assault charge is to obtain consent from any sexual partners. Be aware, however, that either party can revoke consent at any point during sexual activity. However, they cannot revoke consent after the act is completed if they gave it before. Minors cannot give consent.

Proving consent could be difficult, however, because the victim may claim they never gave consent or revoked it at some point. It is truly their word against yours, so this can be a serious uphill battle. But this is exactly what a criminal defense attorney can help you with, aggressively fighting to protect your rights and freedoms.

The Springfield Criminal Defense Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Make Sure Your Rights are Protected

If you have been arrested and charged with assault, sexual or aggravated, you face serious criminal consequences. You need skilled and aggressive legal advocacy to help protect your rights. Do not take this charge lightly or think it will just go away. To find out your next steps, speak with our Springfield criminal defense lawyers at Kicklighter Law. Contact us today to schedule your consultation by calling 912-754-6003 orfilling out our online form. We proudly serve our Georgia neighbors in Springfield, Effingham County, Savannah, and surrounding areas.