San Diego Aggravated Assault Attorneys Defending Clients Against Serious Charges
Committing violent acts or attempting to hurt someone else is against the law and can result in criminal charges. However, it’s not always a black-and-white issue. There may be extenuating circumstances that cause someone to fear for their life and act in self-defense, and in some cases, people are wrongly accused of crimes they didn’t commit. If you have been arrested for aggravated assault or a similar crime like battery, you can find out what this charge means and get more information on your options below.
Don’t attempt to fight the criminal justice system on your own. The legal team at Kersey Law is here to help you understand your rights and the charges against you and form a defense strategy that can protect your future. Call today to schedule a free consultation or find out more about how our experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you.
What Is Aggravated Assault?
Aggravated assault is defined by the California Penal Code as unlawful violent injury of one person by another. Aggravated assault is a more serious crime and means that there were extenuating circumstances in the case that indicate that a more severe sentence may be warranted. One of the most common things that can increase a charge to aggravated assault is the use of a deadly weapon.
Many people confuse assault and battery, and it’s important to understand the difference if you’re being charged. While assault is an attempt to cause injury, battery means that the injury was actually caused. There is also the potential of aggravated battery if there are extenuating circumstances.
It can be helpful to look at some examples. If someone attempts to hit someone else with their fists, that would be a simple assault. If someone attempts to stab someone with a knife but misses or has the weapon taken from them in the fight, that could be an aggravated assault charge. If the person stabs the other person with the knife, it could be aggravated battery or even attempted murder, depending on the circumstances.
Is Aggravated Assault a Felony or Misdemeanor?
Aggravated assault can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If you don’t have a history of previous violent offenses or there were no injuries caused to the other party in the attempt, it is more likely to be charged as a misdemeanor. However, if there was a firearm involved, there were injuries sustained, or you have a previous criminal record — especially of other assault or battery attempts — this could make it more likely to result in a felony charge.
Whether you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor can make a big difference in your case, including the defense strategies and potential sentence. The state of California has the three strikes law, which means that if you have two other convictions for a violent felony, a third felony conviction can make you eligible to be sentenced to life in prison. A defense attorney’s job often centers around getting charges reduced to avoid the potential of stacking up felony charges and negotiating for a reduced sentence.
Do You Have to Use a Firearm for It to Be Aggravated Assault?
There’s a common misconception that the only way to be charged with aggravated assault is to have used a firearm in the assault, but this simply isn’t true. A simple assault charge can be upgraded to aggravated assault for several reasons. While this does include using a firearm, it can also be from using anything that could be classified as a “deadly weapon,” using a caustic chemical, assaulting a police officer, or planning to commit a felony in the process of the assault.
While using or brandishing a firearm during any criminal activity has the capacity to increase the charges if you are arrested, you should never assume that a charge that doesn’t involve a gun will be “minor” or “simple.” If you have more questions about the difference between assault and aggravated assault or aren’t sure which charge you’re facing, a criminal defense attorney can help.
What Are My Defense Options?
Facing aggravated assault charges can be scary, and it’s true that these crimes come with significant sentences — especially if you are charged with a felony. But there are various defense strategies that are available to you. The right one for your case depends on the nature of the charges and the surrounding circumstances, so it’s always best to consult with an attorney about what your options are and the pros and cons of each before deciding on a strategy. Here are some common aggravated assault defenses:
- Innocence: If there is reasonable doubt that you committed the crime, you may be able to argue that you weren’t the person responsible or that the alleged crime didn’t actually occur.
- Self-defense: The law allows you to defend yourself if you are threatened or are in fear for your life or safety. If a reasonable person would have felt the same way in the situation, you may have grounds for a self-defense argument.
- Lack of intent: Because assault is defined as attempting to inflict injury or harm on another person, there is an aspect of intent involved. If it was an accident or you were otherwise unable to have the intent to harm, it can work in your defense.
While not specific defenses, your attorney may also rely on evidence that your rights were violated or that the procedures the police must follow regarding questioning and evidence weren’t done correctly. It may also be an option to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser charge or lower sentence, but this should be a carefully considered strategy. A criminal conviction follows you forever, and you must have a solid understanding of what it means to plead guilty and what the repercussions may be.
What Happens If I’m Convicted?
If you are convicted, there will be a separate sentencing hearing. At this hearing, both sides will be able to present arguments as to what they believe is an appropriate sentence. Unless a plea deal has been struck, the prosecution is likely to argue for a stricter sentence while the defense gives reasons why there should be leniency. Depending on the type of trial, either the jury or the presiding judge will decide on the sentence. If you are sentenced to jail or prison, you will be immediately taken into custody to be transferred to the facility. Below, you can find more information on what the sentence is for aggravated assault and the future implications.
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you could face incarceration in the county jail for up to 1 year. If you are convicted of a felony, your sentence is generally served in the state prison and could be for as much as 4 years and a fine of up to $10,000. These are maximum penalties, so there may be some room for negotiation before the sentencing hearing if you are convicted. For example, you may be able to avoid any jail time at all with a misdemeanor conviction and be sentenced to probation instead.
While a misdemeanor conviction may not have much of an impact on the rest of your life, a felony conviction for aggravated assault absolutely can. Having a felony on your record can stop you from being able to work with children, the elderly, or other vulnerable populations and can make it harder to be approved for a rental home. A felony conviction may also have to be disclosed if you want to volunteer with your children’s school or your local church.
When the handcuffs click, your first call should be to Kersey Law. Obtaining experienced legal representation as soon as possible after your arrest can make a big difference in the outcome of your case. Call our San Diego office at 619-432-3712 to speak with a member of our team and find out how our firm can help you.