Utah Criminal Code 76-5-103: Aggravated assault – Penalties
1. Aggravated assault is an actor’s conduct: (a) that is:
I. an attempt, with unlawful force or violence, to do bodily injury to another;
II. a threat, accompanied by a show of immediate force or violence, to do bodily injury to another; or
III. an act, committed with unlawful force or violence, that causes bodily injury to another or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another; and
(b) that includes the use of:
I. a dangerous weapon as defined in Section 76-1-601;
II. any act that impedes the breathing or the circulation of blood of another person by the actor’s use of unlawful force or violence that is likely to produce a loss of consciousness by: applying pressure to the neck or throat of a person; or obstructing the nose, mouth, or airway of a person; or
III. other means or force likely to produce death or serious bodily injury.
2. Any act under this section is punishable as a third degree felony, except that an act under this section is punishable as a second degree felony if:
(a) the act results in serious bodily injury; or
(b) an act under Subsection (1)(b)(ii) produces a loss of consciousness.
(c) Aggravated assault that is a violation of Section 76-5-210, Targeting a law enforcement officer, and results in serious bodily injury is a first degree felony.
Aggravated assault is an attempt to cause serious bodily harm to an individual with disregard for human life. Factors that raise an assault to the aggravated level typically include the use of a weapon, the status of the victim, the intent of the perpetrator, and the degree of injury caused. States classify certain assaults as aggravated under their criminal codes. They may also use more specific names such as assault with a deadly weapon. Often, aggravated assaults qualify as felonies, while simple assaults can be misdemeanors. Many states have multiple degrees of criminal charges for aggravated assault.
Assault With a Deadly Weapon
Use of a deadly weapon during an assault constitutes aggravated assault. This applies whether or not the weapon causes physical injury to anyone. Basic assault does not require physical harm, but rather that the perpetrator behaves in a way intended to put someone in reasonable fear for their safety. Someone who does this by threatening the person with a deadly weapon commits aggravated assault because the fear involved is fear of more grievous injury. Weapons classified as deadly weapons typically include things which could cause death or serious injury. Some weapons fit this bill including guns. Whether or not other objects constitute deadly weapons depends on the manner in which they are used in the assault. For example, a pocket knife is generally not considered a lethal weapon, but if held to a victim’s neck, it could be deadly.
Identity of the Victim
Some assaults become aggravated depending on the status of the victim. For example, many states punish assault on police officers, fire fighters and even teachers as aggravated assault. Typically, for such an assault to rise to the level of aggravated the victim must have been performing his or her duty when assaulted and the perpetrator must have known of the victim’s status. In addition to possible punishment for aggravated assault, assaults on members of certain protected classes can constitute hate crimes. These can include assaults based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability of the victim.
Intent of the Perpetrator
The mental state of the perpetrator can also push an assault from simple assault to aggravate. If he or she acted with the intent to cause severe harm or fear of severe harm, an assault can become aggravated. Depending on the state, reckless behavior can also constitute aggravated assault for example when someone acts with reckless indifference to human life, but without the specific intent to injure any particular person. If a dangerous or deadly weapon is involved, an assault may become aggravated even without any specific intent to injure.
Degree of Injury to the Victim
More serious injuries to the victim can cause an assault to become an aggravated level. In most states, assaults causing serious bodily injury qualify as aggravated assaults. The seriousness of an injury will vary greatly from case to case. Injuries threatening death will qualify as a serious injury, as will those which maim or disfigure the victim. Some states specify by statute particular injuries that qualify as serious. If a method of assault which would normally cause death only causes more minor physical injury, some states will still punish it as aggravated assault (or even attempted homicide). Sexual assaults usually qualify as their own type of assault, but depending on the state, could be charged as assault/battery, sexual assault, aggravated assault or rape. Since aggravated assault covers such a wide range of circumstances, a detailed examination of the facts of your case is critical to developing a successful defense. A knowledgeable local attorney can help explain the details of local assault statutes and examine the facts of your case for potential defenses. Find an experienced criminal defense attorney near you and get some peace of mind.
Simple and Aggravated Assault Laws and Penalties
Assault is a crime of violence, which is defined differently from one state to another. Here are the main divisions:
• Assault as physical connection: Some states define assault as the intentional use of force or violence against another, such as punching a person or striking the victim with an object. (A few states even lump assault and battery into one crime, which is defined as a physical attack.) Under this approach, an “attempted assault” is an act that intends to physically harm the victim, but fails or falls short. For example, swinging at someone but missing would be an attempted assault.
• Assault as an attempt to physically touch: In other states, assault does not involve actual physical contact, and is defined as an attempt to commit a physical attack, or as threatening actions that cause a person to feel afraid of impending violence. In these states, when the attempt succeeds, the resulting crime is a battery. Under this approach, there is no such crime as an “attempted assault,” because the assault itself is an attempt. Verbal threats are usually not enough to constitute an assault for this second approach. Some action such as raising a fist or moving menacingly toward a victim usually is required. In these states, threatening to hurt someone while walking toward him with a clenched, raised fist would constitute assault.
In states that define assault as placing a victim in fear of violence, the victim’s response must not only be genuine but reasonable under the circumstances. The test normally is whether the defendant’s actions would cause a reasonable person to be in fear of an immediate physical attack. In other words, the victim’s response must be one that you’d expect from any reasonable person in the victim’s position. Simple assault is the least serious form of assault and usually involves minor injury or a limited threat of violence. Aggravated assault involves circumstances that make the crime more serious, as when the victim is threatened with or experiences violence amounting to significantly more than a minor slap across the face or a punch in the jaw.
Examples of aggravated assault include:
• striking or threatening to strike a person with a weapon or dangerous object
• shooting a person with a gun or threatening to kill someone while pointing a gun at the victim
• assault with the intent to commit another felony crime such as robbery or rape
• assault resulting in serious physical injury
• assault (threat of violence) while concealing one’s identity, and
• assault against a member of a protected class, such as a police officer, healthcare provider, social services worker, or developmentally disabled or elderly person.
What Is A Deadly Weapon?
An assault that is aggravated based on the use of a deadly weapon requires that the offender have used a deadly weapon in the commission of the crime. (In some states, assault with a deadly weapon is a separate, distinct crime and not included in the crime of aggravated assault.) An object is a deadly weapon if it likely can cause death or great bodily harm. A gun and a large knife are, by definition, deadly weapons because they are inherently dangerous and even designed to cause injury. Other objects, such as rocks, bricks, or even a boot can constitute a deadly weapon if the object is used in a manner likely to cause or threaten serious bodily injury or death.
Proving the Case and Possible Defenses
In order for a defendant to be convicted of aggravated assault, the prosecutor or district attorney must prove every aspect of the crime (called the “elements” of the crime) beyond a reasonable doubt, including the act of assault and the elements that made the assault “aggravated.” The prosecutor must prove that the defendant intentionally threatened an attack and caused the victim fear, or that the defendant attempted or accomplished a physical attack. The prosecutor also must prove the facts that make the assault aggravated either that the defendant used a deadly weapon, concealed his identity, inflicted serious personal injury, committed the assault with the intent of committing some other serious crime, or that the victim was a member of a protected class, such as a police officer, school employee or an elderly or other vulnerable person.
Defenses To Assault Charges
Defendants charged with aggravated assault have the usual defenses available to all criminal defendants, starting with “You’ve got the wrong person, it wasn’t me.” In addition, a defendant can claim self defense or defense of others and present evidence that the alleged victim initiated the confrontation and that the defendant was defending himself or another person from the alleged victim’s attack. That defense may take the form of showing that a weapon actually was in the victim’s possession or that the victim made the first threat or struck the first blow. Other possible defenses are that the defendant’s actions were purely accidental and that he had no criminal intent; or an insanity defense, in which the defense argues that the accused is mentally ill and did not have the capacity to control his behavior or to understand what he was doing or that his actions were unlawful.
Factors that judges consider
In determining a sentence, judges usually consider the defenses presented at trial, whether the defendant has taken responsibility for the crime and shows remorse, circumstances surrounding the crime, the extent of any injuries incurred, the type of weapon used, the accused’s prior criminal record and, in some situations, the victim’s background or relationship to the defendant.
In some states, assault against a special victim like a police officer or elderly person carries more severe penalties or is subject to sentence enhancement, which permits the court to add extra time to the sentence for the underlying crime. In many states, there also are more severe penalties or sentencing enhancement provisions if the deadly weapon used in an assault or battery is a firearm. Finally, in some states, the penalties are even more severe for certain types of firearms such as automatic weapons, machine guns, or guns that shoot metal-resistant bullets.
Why You Need Legal Representation
Aggravated assault is a very serious felony charge; a conviction for this crime can seriously impact your life. You could face a lengthy prison sentence and the stigma of being a convicted felon. Convicted felons cannot vote or possess firearms and often have difficulty finding employment. A competent criminal defense attorney can help you fight an aggravated assault charge, protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome. An attorney will thoroughly investigate your case, aid you in asserting any possible defenses, and guide you through the criminal court process.
What Are Some Legal Defenses to Assault Charges?
• Self-Defense: It can be a defense if the defendant was acting out of self-defense. They must only use an amount or display of force as is reasonable in the situation and proportionate to the force being used against them;
• Intoxication: In some instances, intoxication can be a legal defense, especially in cases where the intoxication affects the person’s ability to act intentionally;
• Coercion: If the defendant was forced to commit the assault under threat of harm, it can be a defense (for instance, if they are being held at gunpoint and told to assault someone); or
• Lack of Proof/Evidence: If the elements of proof are not met or not supported with proper evidence, it might serve as a legal defense.
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