Aggravated Assault Georgia
The Definitive Guide
Author: Joseph A. Conoscienti, Partner, Conoscienti, Ledbetter & Archer
Mr. Conoscienti specializes in criminal law but likewise has experience in general civil trial practice. Joseph Conoscienti is a part-time Associate Judge for the Municipality of Avonndale Estates, Georgia. Published on April 30, 2018, last updated on June 11, 2019.
If you’re facing an aggravated assault charge in Georgia, there’s a lot to consider. This page will walk you through the basics of Georgia aggravated assault law, possible penalties, and how a dedicated criminal defense attorney can help.
This is a free, public resource developed by Conoscienti, Ledbetter & Archer, aggravated assault lawyers in Georgia. Attorney Joseph A. Conoscienti possesses over 30 years of proven experience defending clients in Georgia.
OCGA Aggravated Assault
Aggravated assault is a serious offense in the state of Georgia. The law governing aggravated assault is detailed in Official Code of Georgia, Annotated or OCGA § 16-5-21. It states that in Georgia, aggravated assault is an assault or an attempt or threat of assault with the intent to murder, rape, or rob another person. Assault using a weapon or object that is likely to inflict serious bodily injury or assault by discharging a firearm from a vehicle towards a person are also classified as aggravated assault.
In Georgia, a basic aggravated assault offense carries a minimum sentence of one year in prison with a maximum of twenty years. Georgia aggravated assault law escalates the penalty due to circumstances and classes of victims, as follows below.
The minimum sentence increases to five years if the aggravated assault was against a correctional guard or law enforcement officer, or if it involved discharging a firearm from a vehicle. The minimum rises to three years for aggravated assaults on elderly persons (age 65 and older) and for aggravated assaults committed on public transit vehicles. There are also specific penalties, including fines or longer minimum sentences, for these situations:
- aggravated assault when it occurs between family members, including past spouses
- aggravated assault upon an officer of the court
- aggravated assault with intent to rape someone under 14 years old
- aggravated assault where the property that was the subject of the theft was a vehicle engaged in the commercial transportation of cargo
In the case of aggravated assault with attempt to rape a person who is younger than 14, the minimum sentence is 25 years and the maximum is 50 years. Good Atlanta lawyers can help you understand what possible penalties you might face in your aggravated assault case.
Aggravated assault does not require touching the victim or an actual injury, rather assault is the attempt or threat of a violent injury by the offender. Assaults are actions that put a reasonable person in fear of an imminent violent touching of their person. For example, if you point a gun at someone, then you put them in fear of being shot. The wielding of the gun is a present ability to harm the victim, and it is an aggravated assault under Georgia law.
Be aware that prosecutors can charge failed attempts to injure by violence as aggravated assaults. For example, if you swing a baseball bat at someone with intent to harm them, but you miss the target, prosecutors in Georgia can still charge you with aggravated assault. In a landmark case, Husband vs. State (2005), the Court convicted a defendant of aggravated assault for making a threat with a gun drawn and aimed at the victim. Although the words promised a future act of violence, the present ability to inflict harm supported conviction for aggravated assault.
In aggravated assault cases as in other criminal cases in Georgia, the State has the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution must show a demonstration of violence along with the present ability to inflict harm by violence, and that the victim was in reasonable fear of an imminent act of violence. Evidence that supports the burden of proof includes the presence of weapons such as knives, guns, and clubs. However, an assailant can inflict violence with hands, fists, or feet (in shoes/boots). The key is the present ability to inflict harm by violence, and reasonable fear of that violence.
If you are facing an aggravated assault charge in Georgia, there are some common defense tactics you can consider along with your attorney. These defenses include:
- denial or innocence of the act
- lack of intent
- defense of others
- defense of property
- object involved was not a deadly weapon
Additionally, for aggravated assault to occur, the victim must be conscious and aware of the threat. If the victim consented to be touched or for the act to be committed, that consent can be used as a defense as well.
Aggravated Assault Georgia Definition
The definition of aggravated assault in Georgia is assault with the intent to murder, rape, or rob; assault with a deadly weapon or an object likely to inflict serious bodily injury or strangulation; or assault by discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle towards a person.
Under Georgia law, there is a distinction between criminal assault and battery, although the two are often confused. Assault is the threat of a violent touching of a person that causes a reasonable person to fear an injury. Battery is the actual touching that inflicts harm.
Aggravated assault is the present ability to cause violent touching with a weapon such as a gun, knife, bat, or other objects. In order for it to be classified as aggravated assault, the victim must be in reasonable fear of the violent threat and must not have consented to these actions.
Joseph Conoscienti has always been a fighter. In the United States Air Force, Mr. Conoscienti achieved the rank of Sergeant. It’s with the same grit and determination that he takes into the courtroom defending clients against aggravated assault charges in Georgia.
OCGA 16 5 21
OCGA 16-5-21 is the Georgia aggravated assault law. The text of the law reads as such:
Georgia Code, Title 16, chapter 5, Article 2 ( OGCA-16-5-2). Aggravated Assault
(a) A person commits the offense of aggravated assault when he or she assaults:
(1) With intent to murder, to rape, or to rob;
(2) With a deadly weapon or with any object, device, or instrument which, when used offensively against a person, is likely to or actually does result in serious bodily injury; or
(3) With any object, device, or instrument which, when used offensively against a person, is likely to or actually does result in strangulation; or
(4) A person or persons without legal justification by discharging a firearm from within a motor vehicle toward a person or persons.
Sections B through K of the aggravated assault code go on to describe minimum and maximum penalties for aggravated assault, and the special circumstances in which more serious penalties are required such as assault against the elderly, assault against correctional officers, etc. The full text of the law can be read here.
Aggravated assault law in Georgia was amended in 2014 by House Bill 911, which added the clause about strangulation. Public response to this change was positive, especially since strangulation is often seen in domestic violence cases. Therefore, as this Atlanta Journal Constitution article describes, people saw this addition as a step forward in the fight against domestic violence.
The same chapter and article of Georgia law that defines aggravated assault also covers simple assault and simple and aggravated battery. Here are the relevant laws and the basic elements of criminal assault and battery:
- O.C.G.A. §16-5-20 simple assault is a threat or an attempt to commit a violent bodily injury to another person.
- O.C.G.A §16-5-23 simple battery is the act of intentionally making contact with another person in an insulting, provoking, or harmful manner.
- O.C.G.A §16-5-24 aggravated battery adds the element of malice. Aggravated battery is the act of maliciously and intentionally inflicting serious injury to another person. Serious injuries include disfigurement, loss of limbs, and types of permanent injury.
If you or a loved one is facing charges for any of these crimes, experienced Atlanta lawyers can help you understand the situation and help you through it.
Aggravated Assault Georgia Sentence
The basic sentence for aggravated assault in Georgia is a minimum of one year in prison and a maximum of 20 years. The court has the discretion to impose fines up to $100,000, and probation of up to 20 years. The minimum penalty increases by the statutory requirements for certain classes of victims and situations as listed below:
- Five-year minimum applies to assaults against teachers or students in a school safety zone; peace, police, and correctional officials; and officers of the courts.
- Three-year minimum applies to aggravated assault by firearm from a vehicle; assaults on household and family menders; and assaults on public transit vehicles or facilities.
- 25-year minimum sentence applies to aggravated assaults with intent to rape a child under age 14. In this case, the maximum sentence is 50 years.
- Other penalties include restitution that can cover costs to the victim such as medical care and counseling.
When a repeat offender is convicted of aggravated assault in Georgia, courts have the authority to sentence these repeat offenders harshly. Courts can impose the maximum penalty on defendants with prior felony convictions. It is not a strict mandatory sentence, but the court can impose or suspend any part of the increase and use probation as it may determine. If you are a repeat offender, your best bet for getting a lower penalty is to contact a lawyer who can review all the facts of your case to find possible mitigating circumstances.
Joseph Conoscienti has always been a fighter. In the United States Air Force, Mr. Conoscienti achieved the rank of Sergeant. It’s with the same grit and determination that he takes into the courtroom defending clients against drug laws in Georgia.
Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon in Georgia
Although assault with a deadly weapon is always considered aggravated assault in Georgia, aggravated assault does not always involve use of a deadly weapon. For instance, assault with the intent to murder, rape, or rob is aggravated assault, and in those cases a deadly weapon might or might not be involved.
However, the use of a deadly weapon during assault is evidence of the accused’s state of mind and the intention to inflict severe bodily harm. Presence of a deadly weapon can increase your chances of being convicted or in some cases might increase the penalties you face.
Typical “deadly weapons” include guns, knives, sticks, and baseball bats. However, anything that can inflict severe injury is considered a weapon under Georgia law. For instance, the hands are deadly weapons in cases of manual strangulation, and a shod (covered) foot is a deadly weapon in cases of attempts or threats to kick or stomp a victim.
The felony assault provision aimed at strangulation which considers hands a deadly weapon is relatively new, enacted in 2014. The policy seeks to enforce heavy punishment against abusers, primarily men, who choke their victims and inflict lasting harms, both physical and psychological.
Aggravated Assault vs Simple Assault Georgia
Aggravated assault differs from simple assault under Georgia law. The government can charge simple assault (OCGA 16-5-20) as a felony or misdemeanor, while aggravated assault (OCGA 16-5-21) is always a felony charge.
Simple assault occurs when someone either attempts to commit a violent injury to another person or commits an act which places another in reasonable apprehension of immediately receiving a violent injury. As a misdemeanor, the charge of simple assault carries up to one-year imprisonment, fines up to $1,000, and possible probation and restitution. There are some cases where simple assault can be charged as a high or aggravated misdemeanor, such as assaults against pregnant women. These cases can be penalized more severely.
The state charges aggravated assault in cases where someone uses a deadly weapon or has the intent to rob, rape, or murder. Aggravated assault carry penalties of one to twenty years or more in prison, victim restitution, fines, and possible probation.
For more information about your specific type of criminal case in the state of Georgia, please select a page below:
- Georgia Stand Your Ground Law
- Georgia Sex Offender Registry
- Hit and Run in Georgia
- Drug Laws Georgia
- Medical Marijuana Laws in Georgia
If you need help understanding your assault charges, contact an attorney to assist you in navigating the charges and the court system.