BASICS OF AGGRAVATED ASSAULT IN GEORGIA

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The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) 16-5-21(b) states that 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;
  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.

Elements of Aggravated Assault:

To obtain conviction, the prosecutor must prove the elements of aggravated assault which include: 1) an assault on a person as defined in OCGA 16-5-20, and 2) the presence of any of the statutory aggravators enumerated in OCGA 16-5-21 (b).

What is assault as defined in OCGA 16-5-20?

A person commits the offense of simple assault when he or she either:

  1. Attempts to commit a violent injury to the person of another; or
  2. Commits an act which places another in reasonable apprehension of immediately receiving a violent injury.

The second form of simple assault is a general intent crime, that is, the prosecutor must prove that defendant intended to do the act that placed another in a reasonable apprehension of immediate violent injury.Guyse v. State 286 Ga. 574. Simple assault is generally considered misdemeanor offense.

What circumstances transform simple assault into aggravated assault?

The presence of any one of the following conditions will make assault aggravated:

  1. Intent to murder, rape, rob.

If an offender intended to kill, rape, or rob another person but did not succeed, the prosecution has the discretion of filing either the crime of attempted murder, rape, or robbery or the crime of aggravated assault. Prosecutors often charged aggravated assault because it is easier to prove and it has tougher penalty. In the mind of the prosecutor, the harsher penalty makes the time spent prosecuting the crime well worth the effort in trial preparation.

  1. Use of deadly weapon or any object, device, or instrument which is likely to or actually does result in serious bodily injury.

Actual injury is not required. Mere possibility that serious injury would result from the use of deadly weapon, object, device, or instrument is enough. The “deadly” nature or character of a weapon is determined by the jury. Any “object, device, or instrument” that has the potential of being used offensively against a person can be considered an instrument of aggression. Knives, baseball bats, bottles, books, bags, pens, phones, vehicles, sticks, and furniture can all be used to attack a person and thus qualify as objects that can be used in effecting the crime of aggravated assault. Everything that can inflict injury is virtually included in the list.

  1. Use of object, device, or instrument which is likely to or actually result in strangulation.

Strangulation means impeding the normal breathing or circulation of blood of another person by applying pressure to the throat or neck of such person or by obstructing the nose and mouth of such person.

Prior to July 1, 2014, strangulation is often considered a misdemeanor offense. Governor Nathan Deal signed the law adding strangulation as one way of committing aggravated assault on April 22, 2014. It took effect on July 01, 2014.

  1. Discharging firearm from within a motor vehicle toward a person or persons.

The person discharging the firearm must not have any legal justification.

Penalty

The range of penalty often depends on the type of victim assaulted and on the location of the crime. If the victim is peace officer, correctional officer, officer of the court, or emergency health worker, the penalty ranges from 5 to 20 years of imprisonment. If the victim is 65 years of age or older, the penalty ranges from 3 to 20 years imprisonment. If aggravated assault is committed in a public transit vehicle or station, penalty ranges from 3 to 20 years. If committed against a student, teacher, or school personnel within a school safety zone, penalty is from 5 to 20 years imprisonment. If aggravated assault is with intent to rape a child under age of 14, penalty ranges from 25 to 50 years imprisonment.

Notable Case: Patterson v. State 299 Ga. 491(2016)

Facts: Patterson was charged with “aggravated assault with an object” when he drove a motor vehicle in the direction of Silvers striking Silvers with said vehicle and pinning him up against a mobile home.

Issue: What kind of specific intent or mental aptitude of the offender is needed for aggravated assault?

Ruling: State isrequired to show that Patterson intended to drive his van in the direction of Silvers, that Silvers was placed in reasonable apprehension of injury, and that van was an object that when used offensively against a person, was likely to or actually did result I serious bodily injury. The State isnot required to show an intent to injure or that Patterson intended to place Silvers in reasonable apprehension of injury.

Bixon Law has handled numerous cases of Aggravated Assault and we have successfully had them dismissed, reduced and even tried them before juries. If you have any questions about a criminal case, please feel free to call us at any time (404) 551-5684.


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