Uncertain Situations: What is Aggravated Assault, and What is Self-Defense?

Interpersonal conflicts, especially when they get physical, make things complicated in the legal world.

How can you know when it’s time to press charges, or when it was appropriate to have charges pressed against you? These situations are scary and if you’ve never had legal problems before, it’s impossible to know what’s appropriate.

What is aggravated assault and what is self-defense? How can you tell the difference, and does it matter in the eyes of the law? What about when one is a result of the other?

We want to help explain so you know how to proceed. Whether you’re hit with a suit, or you’re thinking about approaching a lawyer for your lawsuit, we’re here to help.

Keep reading to learn about aggravated assaults, self-defense, and where the two can go together or get confused with one another.

Why Are They So Closely Aligned?

The differences between an aggravated assault and self-defense are marginal (depending on the state; different states have different ideas of what qualifies as each kind of assault situation).

Sometimes in cases where someone gets accused of aggravated assault, they claim self-defense. This may be appropriate given the situation, but they may also be incorrect (or untruthful) with that claim.

Because of this, it’s important to know the nuances of the two. If you’re claiming self-defense (or innocence) and the other party is as well, and you know you’re in the right, you must know the difference so you can gather evidence and defend your case.

The law often does its best to give the benefit of the doubt, and if someone was defending themself, they mustn’t be treated as a criminal. It’s good to keep this in mind when you’re considering your options. Their perspective matters and it’s possible that you have a skewed perspective as well.

What Is Aggravated Assault?

An aggravated assault is an attempt to cause physical harm to a victim with intent and a lack of attention to life and safety. This means that while the victim hasn’t passed away as a result of the assault, the possibility was present based on the assumed intent and actions of the perpetrator.

In other words, this form of assault has to be intentional. Those accused of aggravated assault but disagree with the accusation should seek an aggravated assault lawyer as aggravated assaults are felonies.

The Difference Between Simple Assault and Aggravated Assault

Simple assault is also an attempt to cause harm, but this harm may not be physical and there are most likely no deadly weapons involved. This may depend on whether or not the perpetrator has enough physical strength to cause serious harm to the victim.

A deadly weapon will almost always raise the level of assault to an aggravated assault regardless of whether or not that weapon caused harm. This means that someone brandishing a knife, gun, or another type of weapon as a threat will qualify as an aggravated assault.

This form of assault is usually a misdemeanor assault.

When The Type of Victim Matters

Sometimes an assault (or even an unfortunate self-defense case) can elevate to aggravated assault if the victim is a certain “type” of person.

These assaults can include protected classes in which case they’ll be hate crimes if it’s clear that the intent was based on race, gender, gender identity, sexuality, or disability of the victim.

They can also be a police officer, a caretaker or teacher, or a firefighter who is presently doing their job.

What Is Self-Defense?

Self-defense is when someone is protecting themself from a threat of some form of danger. This danger is often an assault.

Self-defense may include a deadly weapon and it may result in the harm (or death) of the offending party. Self-defense can look like assault or aggravated assault and there must be enough evidence to support a self-defense case if the lines are unclear.

What’s An Appropriate Response?

For a case to be considered self-defense the response has to be appropriate in consideration of the assault.

This means that a threat of violence without a weapon or any indication of serious harm should not result in death or physical harm to the offender. Responses should be as equal as possible.

Depending on the state, some laws require that the defender first attempts to leave the situation. Other states allow you to stand your ground.

The exception to these is the castle doctrine which allows a victim to defend themselves when someone is breaking into their home.

What About Misperceived Threats?

Self-defense requires the genuine threat of harm or death towards the victim. A reasonable person will be able to perceive the threat as harmful.

That being said, there are cases in which the defender feels genuinely threatened and at risk of death or serious harm. In these cases, while self-defense is still applicable, they may face charges. Irrational fear is considered, but not an excuse for physical harm.

For a fear to be irrational, there needs to be no logical way that someone will perceive the event as an attack.

What’s Reasonable?

Sometimes the threat is obvious. If someone is brandishing a weapon or otherwise physically threatening the defender, there will be little doubt or argument about the self-defense claim.
There are also less serious situations that are still considered reasonable.

If someone believes that they were harmed or threatened on purpose (such as an accidental instance of one person tripping another as an attempt to harm) a reasonable person may perceive this as an attack.

Retaliating in an equal way is appropriate here even though these threats were unintentional because it’s easy to see why the defender thought that they were.

Aggravated Assault and Self-Defense: More Alike Than You’d Think

What is aggravated assault? What’s self-defense? The line can be thin and unclear and a good lawyer is necessary to parse through the details so the judge can make an accurate decision.

If you’re caught in a case of aggravated assault or self-defense, it’s important to seek legal representation. Get a consultation with a lawyer as soon as possible to help your case.

For more articles that can answer your burning questions, visit the rest of our site.

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