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Assault, aggravated assault, and assault and battery are crimes that involve inflicting intentional harm on another person. Any offense that includes an actual physical attack or even the threat of attack is classified as a battery, an assault, or both. Based on how severe the offense is or the seriousness of the weapon used, these acts can be elevated to the highest level, which is aggravated assault. Fights can also lead to assault charges irrespective of the fact that both parties “mutually agreed” to take part in a fight.

An assault an also be defined as intentional acts aimed at harming another person, or to create the fear that he/she is about to be harmed physically. This definition recognizes the fact that if you make another person live in fear of imminent harm, the threat that you meted out to that person warrants a punishment. You can be punished even if the offended party isn’t physically harmed. Therefore, law enforcement officers can arrest you even without waiting to see if the victim is actually harmed.

An assault claim can give rise to either a personal injury civil lawsuit or criminal charges. The successful criminal prosecution of a criminal case will entail everything involved in the successful prosecution of personal injury claims resulting from an assault case. Nonetheless, there are a few differences. This highlights the significance of understanding how criminal prosecution will affect personal injury claims basing on the underlying assault. 

Generally, the state handles and controls criminal cases while victims control civil assault cases. Criminal assault charges are often prosecuted in criminal courts. A district attorney or a public prosecutor is typically put in charge of criminal assault cases against defenders. As a result, victims have little or no say about how the case is managed. They can only be called to act as state witnesses.

More often than less, criminal assault cases are considered to be misdemeanors unless charges brought forward against defenders are for aggravated assault including an attempt seriously injure or kill victims by use of deadly weapons. Victims in criminal assault cases often become plaintiffs in civil assault cases is they decide to go ahead and sue their alleged attackers in a civilian court. If this happens, the plaintiffs will be in control of their cases, and consequently, no other public official apart from the presiding judge will be involved.

The Role of Intent in Assault Cases

The successful prosecution of assault cases depends on the plaintiff’s ability to prove that it was the intention of the defendant to cause harm. It must be proved that the assault incident was intentional so that liability can be created in personal injury lawsuits. Intentionality in assault cases simply implies that the defendant meant to commit the harmful act and that the plaintiff apprehended that he/she was about to get hit or attacked.

The defendant does not need to intent to put his/her victim in apprehension. Instead, the defendant only needs to knowingly commit an act that he/she knew would make the plaintiff to experience anxiety. This means that the defendant’s motive doesn’t matter as far as winning personal injury lawsuits that pertain to assault is concerned. Nonetheless, a particularly ill motive may lead to the award of punitive damages.

In criminal assault cases, the prosecution is required to prove that defendants acted with the intention to assault their victims. This means that for you to be convicted for criminal assault, the jury or judge needs to find beyond reasonable doubt, that you had the intention of assaulting your victim.

Assault and Battery

Traditionally, assault and battery were regarded as separate crimes. In battery cases, it had to be proved that the aggressor physically struck or aggressively touched the victim. For this reason, battery was regarded as a “completed” assault. In recent times, however, the two offenses are regarded as the same thing. This is why the words “assault” and “battery” are often used together. Most statutes refer to all crimes involving physical violence or threats as assaults.

Simple vs. Aggravated Assault

In most jurisdictions, assaults are regarded as either being simple or aggravated. The categorization of your assault case will be determined by the gravity of the harm that was occasioned to the victim. Generally, aggravated assault is a felony that may involve an act of aggression committed using a weapon or with the intention of committing a more serious crime such as robbery.

Some assault laws may mention the aggravating factor, for instance, “assault using a deadly weapon.” Assaults can also be regarded as being aggravated if they occur during a relationship to the extent that legal systems consider worthy of special protection. If these factors are absent, the crime perpetrated against a victim ceases to be an aggravated assault, and will consequently be considered as either a misdemeanor or simple assault.

Simple assault is regarded as the least serious type of assault since it typically involves minor injuries or insignificant threats of violence. This is unlike in aggravated assault whereby the circumstance involved make the crime look even more serious. Aggravated assault may include threatening or striking another person using a dangerous object or a weapon, shooting someone with a gun or threatening to shoot someone by pointing a gun at them, assault with the intention of committing another felony, and assault while concealing your identity.

For you to be charged with aggravated assault, the district attorney or prosecutor must prove all elements of the alleged crime beyond reasonable doubt. This includes the actual case itself and aspects that make it be considered “aggravated.” It must also be proved that you intentionally and willingly threatened to attack the victim thus causing him/her to live in fear, or that you attempted or undertook a physical attack.

The prosecution similarly needs to present facts that point out why your case should be considered an aggravated assault. Likewise, it must be proved that you threatened or assaulted your victim using a deadly weapon, inflicted serious personal injuries, or concealed your identity while carrying out the attack. If your victim belongs to a protected class (police officers, vulnerable persons, the elderly, etc.), your case will be regarded as aggravated assault.

What are Your Defense Options?

If you are facing aggravated assault charges, you qualify for the usual defense that is typically available for all criminal offenders. Your lawyer can claim that the prosecution has gotten the wrong person and that you were not even involved in the alleged assault. Similarly, you can claim that you either acted in self-defense or in defense of others. Once you lodge this claim, you must provide evidence that it is the alleged victim who initiated the confrontation that led to the assault.

This may include showing that the weapon was actually in the claimant’s possession and that it is him/her who struck the first blow or made the initial threat. Other possible defenses may include claiming that your actions were accidental and that you did not have any criminal intent. You could even plead insanity by arguing that you were mentally ill and therefore, you were not in a position to understand what was happening leave alone controlling your behavior.

What are the Penalties for Aggravated Assault?

Often, aggravated assault is punishable by an approximate jail term of between 1 to 20 years. This depends on the specific provisions in your state and the sentencing guidelines. Typically, judges have some discretion when it comes to the length of sentence that they can mete out. Besides this, they are the ones who determined whether you will serve part of the sentence on probation instead of being put behind bars for the duration of the sentence.

There are various factors that judges often consider when deterring sentences for individuals who have been charged with aggravated assault. The most important thing that judges feel is the defense that your attorney presented at trial. The circumstances concerning the commitment of the crime, whether you show remorse and take responsibility for your actions, the extent of injuries that the victim suffered, your prior criminal record, type of weapon used, and your relationship with the victim will also be considered.

In some cases, your sentence can be enhanced if it is established that you assaulted a member of a protected class. Such assaults typically attract more severe penalties including sentence enhancement. In such cases, the court is permitted to add time to the sentence that is meted out for the underlying crime. In some cases, the use of deadly weapons such as guns to assault victim also attracts more severe sentences.

Sexual Assault

This is one of the most severe cases of assault. This is why a victim of sexual assault can file a civil suit against the perpetrator of the assault in a civil court. In some cases, additional parties can also be enjoined. In as much as any sexual assault incident can lead to a criminal prosecution that can result in fines, probation, jail time, and other sanctions against defendants after a conviction is obtained, civil lawsuits are typically the only way that sexual assault victim can receive monetary compensation for the harm that they suffered.

The type and amount of compensation that a victim of sexual assault can receive will be determined by particular facts of that case. The legal theory upon which the case is based, will also be a major determining factor. In legal terms, this is referred to as the “cause of action.” Since there isn’t a cause of action known as “sexual assault,” your lawyer will need to pick a legal theory under which the perpetrator can be held liable. This may include intentional infliction of emotional distress or assault and battery.

Irrespective of the legal theory that governs the proceedings of a civil case, damages involved in sexual assault cases only result from the emotional or physical harm that victims suffered during the incident, and will continue to suffer due to the abuse. Owing to the egregious nature of sexual assault crimes, juries often award high damages.

Suing Additional Parties in Sexual Assault Cases

In some sexual assault cases, victims often enjoin other parties and hold them liable in addition to the perpetrator. For instance, if the assault occurred at work or in school, the institution (often the perpetrator’s employer) can be held liable. This claim of liability is typically based on failure to provide sufficient security or a negligent supervision claim.

In civil lawsuits that pertain to sexual assault, the possibility of criminal prosecution and compensation will be high if the victim and his/her legal team prove that the defendant is liable for the incident. An even complex constitutional rule, which is commonly referred to as “collateral estoppel” entitles the plaintiff to submit evidence that the jury in the criminal case used to find the defendant guilty.

Even if there wasn’t a corresponding criminal case and prosecution prior to the sexual assault civil suit, the plaintiff is still allowed to prove that the defendant should be held liable for the alleged sexual assault incident. The standard of proof is often lower in civil cases compared to criminal cases.

What are the Elements of Assault?

If you intend to file a simple or aggravated assault lawsuit, it is important that you fully understand the elements of assault. Generally, there are two elements that you should prove to enhance your chances of getting recompensed. You must prove that the assault was an intentional action by the defendant and that he/she meant to harm you. Similarly, you must prove that you were apprehensively and immediately harmed following the attack.

Injuries and Damages for Assault

Generally, any intentional or otherwise tort involves damages. Assault cases aren’t different because the damage involved can be physical or damage to property. In case you sustain personal injuries as a result of the assault, you qualify to recover both non-economic and economic damages. In some states, you will be entitled to punitive damages, which are dependent on the circumstances surrounding the assault incident.

  •    Non-economic Damages- These are awarded as compensation for the pain and suffering that you underwent during and after the assault. It is hard to qualify for non-economic damages.
  •    Economic Damages- These are awarded to compensate assault victims for any expenses and costs that they incurred as a result of the incident. Economic damages may cover costs related to medical bills, the cost of ongoing care, and property replacement or repair.
  •    Punitive Damages- These are designed to punish the offenders. Punitive damages are only found in some certain jurisdictions and special circumstances. For instance, if the assault is outrageous like sexual assault, it may trigger the award of punitive damages.

Personal Injury Claims in Assault Cases

Most people confuse assault with battery. In as much as the two are related, they are different types of claims as far as criminal cases are concerned. An assault occurs when an individual acts intentionally in a manner that cause another person immediate harm or apprehension.

On the other hand, battery occurs when the intentional act of the accused caused harmful or offensive contact with the victim. The confusion that often exists between battery and assault cases is attributed to the fact that standard claims made in both cases are typically made together. Claims often stem from the other situation.

The main difference that exists between battery and assault lies in the fact that an assault claim can involve the claimant’s apprehension of contact and not just the contact itself. For instance, if the accused swung a golf bat at the plaintiff but mussed, the plaintiff can still sue the accused for assault and not battery. In case the defendant intentionally hit the plaintiff who knew that he/she was about to get hit before the contact, the plaintiff can sue for both assault and battery.

The Role of Apprehension in Assault Cases

Apprehension plays a crucial role in defining what assault really is. In assault cases, apprehension doesn’t only imply the fear of getting hit. It is actually the plaintiff’s certain and reasonable belief that the act can result in imminent action unless he/she takes some evasive action.

Apprehension can include belief, perception, awareness, fear, anxiety, or and knowledge. The apprehension of a plaintiff needs to be reasonable. For instance, if the defendant made a playful swing of a baseball bat towards the plaintiff, it will be hard to prove that he/she reasonably and unquestionably apprehended harmful or offensive contact.

In addition, threats or insults pertaining to future harm, by themselves, don’t create reasonable and unquestionable apprehension for immediate contact. Nevertheless, if the defendant makes loud insults or threats while brandishing a gun, for instance, the plaintiff can sue for assault successfully especially if a reasonable individual caught up in a similar situation felt they were exposed to the imminent danger of some harmful contact. 

Finding the Best Criminal Lawyer Near Me

Assault can be a serious felony or misdemeanor charge. A successful conviction for the crime can greatly affect your life. Besides being forced to financially compensate your victim, you can end up facing a lengthy jail sentence. If you are facing an assault conviction, contact Phoenix Criminal Lawyer law firm via 602-551-8092 for competent representation.

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