How Assault and Aggravated Assault Differ

Assault charges and aggravated assault charges differ in a number of important ways. An assault charge may be elevated to an aggravated assault charge when certain factors are at play. Whether a charge is considered assault or aggravated assault also affects the potential punishment that a defendant can face.

Assault and Battery

Although the charges of assault and battery are often discussed interchangeably, they are actually two different offenses. Battery generally means that there has been some type of unwanted and offensive contact. There must be some form of touch, whether through a shove, punch, slap or hit, to be classified as a battery.

In contrast, assault is committed when a person makes an unlawful threat by word or act to inflict violence on another. There does not have to be actual contact in order for assault to occur and criminal charges can arise nonetheless.

More Specifics

In order for an assault to occur, the words used must be more than a mere threat. Instead, the words
must be coupled with the ability for the offender to carry through with the threat and the actual act. For example, if the offender says that he or she is going to hurt someone else and swings a punch at the intended victim, the offender has demonstrated his or her intent to follow through with the act and the ability to perform the act even if no contact was made. Even if the offender is not able to injure another, he or she may still face assault charges based on the intent to harm the victim.

Additionally, the threat must be based on potential imminent harm and cannot be based on a speculative harm in the future. The threat must be one that creates a well-founded fear in the victim.

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault charges are based on the same basic elements as simple assault. However, there are other factors present in the case that justify elevating the charge. The elevation depends on state law. It may include such factors as having a deadly weapon at the time the threat is made, the characteristics of the victim, the degree of assault and the defendant’s prior criminal history. In Florida, aggravated assault occurs when the defendant commits an assault and uses a deadly weapon during this assault with the intent to commit a felony. A deadly weapon may be one that can be used to present a great danger or that could cause serious harm. It may include a knife or a gun. However, it may include more innocuous item such as bleach or another form of potential poison.

Florida’s felony offense requirement includes a number of different crimes, including rape, stalking, domestic violence or other felonies.

Potential Penalties

The potential penalties that a person may face depends on whether the charge is for assault or aggravated assault. Additionally, whether the crime is considered a misdemeanor or felony impacts the potential penalties. For example, simple assault is often charged as a misdemeanor offense. The potential penalty for a misdemeanor is up to a year in jail. However, some jurisdictions may further limit the term of imprisonment. In Florida, the potential penalty for a simple assault charge is a jail term of up to 60 days and a fine up to $500.

Since aggravated assault is usually considered a felony, it is often associated with harsher penalties. In Florida, the potential sentence is up to five years and a fine up to $5,000. If the crime is perpetrated against certain individuals such as those age 65 or older, the penalties may be even greater.

Provided by

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws they may affect a case.

Find a Lawyer