What is the Difference Between Assault And Aggravated Assault?

assault vs aggravated assault

When an individual gets charged with a certain kind of assault, he may not understand it. Have you been charged with simple assault or aggravated assault and don’t know the difference between them? 

The most significant difference between simple assaults and aggravated assaults is that the former is a misdemeanor while the latter is a felony. Misdemeanors are punishable by small fines and with short or no jail time, while felonies punishable by substantial fines and jail time. The consequences of a felony can also be devastating since a conviction can ruin a person’s opportunity to get a job, vote, buy a firearm, or even travel abroad.

What is an Assault?

An assault is an intentional act that causes physical harm to another person or creates the fear of physical harm. Creating fear of imminent physical harm in another person is a punishable assault, regardless of whether the victim is physically injured. Assault does not require actual contact between the perpetrator and victim.

Assault is considered a crime of violence against individuals. The law classifies assault cases into two classes – simple assault and aggravated assault. The distinction between the two classes depends on a victim’s degree of injury and a wrongdoer’s use of a lethal weapon. Simple assault is a less severe offense categorized as a misdemeanor, whereas aggravated assault is a felony.

Simple Assault

Simple assault generally includes misdemeanor penalties (and a few states check this crime as a misdemeanor assault.) This crime involves either the risk of immediate damage or a physical act that results in minimum injuries. 

Arguments, domestic disputes, behavior stimulated through intoxication, and different aggressive behavior can enhance violent acts that cause complaints and charges of simple assault. According to US law, one commits simple assault if they have attempted to cause or recklessly cause physical damage and put someone in fear of imminent bodily harm.

For example, raising a fist at a person and being dangerous to smack them might be a simple attack. Shoving or slapping someone that results in bruising will also be charged as simple assault.

Aggravated Assault 

Aggravated assault charge depends on the elements of simple assault. However, other aspects of the case justify elevating the charge. The elevation relies upon country regulation. It includes such elements as having a lethal weapon at the time of the threat, the victim’s characteristics, the degree of assault, and the defendant’s earlier criminal history.

An aggravated attack is placing or threatening to strike a person with a knife, bat, or metallic bar, shooting someone with a gun, or threatening to kill even by pointing a gun at the victim.

Degrees of Aggravated Assault 

The varying degrees of aggravated assault convictions vary with legal guidelines. It is said to be first-degree aggravated assault if the person commits the act with premeditation and malicious intention. 

Second-degree aggravated assault commonly includes when the assault is without premeditation or forethought. Third-degree and fourth-degree aggravated assault charges are given for lesser offenses, like when the suspect intends to inflict rather than serious physical harm to the sufferer.

Different assault classifications

As an alternative to classifying assaults as simple or aggravated, a few states understand the specific levels of harm by categorizing them as first- (most serious), second or third-degree ( less extreme) assaults.

How Does an Aggravated Assault Differ from an Assault?

The Seriousness of Crime

Simple assault is a less critical charge, given when an individual credibly threatens a person with bodily damage or knowingly causes an injury. 

Severe Bodily Injury and Use of Deadly Weapons

The distinction between a simple assault and an aggravated assault is the outcome, or potential outcome, if a weapon is involved in severe bodily injury. The state defines serious physical harm as, which creates a threat of death, or that causes severe disfigurement, coma, a permanent or protracted condition that causes intense pain, or permanent loss or impairment of any body organ”.


Intent additionally plays a significant role in the difference between aggravated assault and simple assault. The suspect’s intention to inflict harm is considered, and serious charges are introduced if the suspect’s intent is more serious.

For example, a suspect who intends to inflict a deadly injury can be charged more critically than a suspect who threatens a less critical injury. Assault is the hazard and intent to inflict serious harm, whereas aggravated assault means the suspect carries some weapon to harm, increasing the level of assault. One final thing that comes into play in determining whether or not the assault is aggravated is the extent of injury the victim sustains.

Potential Penalties

The potential penalties depend on whether the charge is for assault or aggravated assault. Additionally, whether the crime is a misdemeanor or felony affects the potential penalties. As an example, simple assault gets charged as a misdemeanor offense. The potential penalty for a misdemeanor is up to a year in prison. But some jurisdictions can also similarly limit the period of imprisonment. 

Because aggravated assault is generally considered a felony, it is frequently related to harsher consequences. If the crime is committed towards people sixty-five or older, the penalties can be even more.


In short, simple assault includes touching, threatening language or actions, and fewer injuries. Serious harm or the use of weapons are factors of an aggravated assault.

The bottom line is neither simple assault nor aggravated assault had a favorable effect on your life, so you should avoid getting prosecuted. A person’s daily activities may affect whether they are charged with assault or accused. These effects could include difficulty getting a job, a tarnished reputation, and weakening bonds with family and neighbors.

Anyone who hears of an accusation or an investigation into assault allegations against them immediately must contact a qualified attorney.


Is aggravated assault a crime?

A felony charge of aggravated assault carries a sentence of five to thirty years in prison, depending on the circumstances of the offense and the specific rules of each state’s sentencing statutes.

What defenses are available in cases of severe assault?

Self-defense and the fact that you weren’t the criminal are common defenses. Providing proof to support your claim that it was an accident might also be a defense.

What if the prosecutor is unable to prove aggravated assault?

To convict on aggravated assault, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt every element of the crime that made the assault “aggravated.” Failure to prove the assault was “aggravating” may result in the charges being dropped or reduced from aggravated to simple assault.

What is the primary distinction between assault and aggravated assault?

The primary distinction is that simple assaults are misdemeanors, whereas aggravated assaults are felonies. Misdemeanors are punishable by small fines and little to no jail time, whereas felonies can result in huge fines and lengthy prison time.

How does an assault on a victim of a protected class become aggravated assault?

If the victim belongs to a protected class. In that case, the charges will likely upgrade to aggravated assault, such as assaults on police, medical technicians, firefighters, school personnel, or the physically or mentally disabled.

What constitutes serious bodily injury?

A serious bodily injury is graver than a minor physical injury. Serious bodily injury occurs when there is a high risk of death, extreme physical pain, unconsciousness, the threat of disfigurement, or severe loss or impairment of a body part or organ.