A charge of assault may seem simple enough to comprehend. Any physical altercation between yourself and another individual in California may qualify as such. Yet the penalties for an alleged assault may vary widely, particularly when law enforcement authorities claim the presence of aggravating factors.
The word “aggravated” itself adds an element of gravity to whatever scenario it describes. Thus, it may be reasonable for you to assume that if officials charge you with aggravated assault, the criminal consequences you could face may be more severe. Yet as is the case with any criminal charge, authorities should not demonstrate any degree of overzealousness when charging you. It behooves you, then, to know whether your case even qualifies as aggravated assault.
Reviewing aggravating factors in California
According to Section 245 of the California Penal Code, officials consider an assault aggravated when any of the following elements occur in conjunction with an altercation:
- The use of a deadly weapon or instrument
- The use of a firearm
- The use of a machine gun
- The use of force likely to cause great bodily harm or injury
Identifying the presence of any of the first three elements seems fairly straightforward (although authorities may be liberally in defining a weapon as “deadly”), yet the fourth offers room for interpretation. For you to face charges of trying to cause great bodily harm, the burden of proof falls to prosecutors to show that you indeed demonstrated such an intent.
Acting in self-defense
Another element that merits consideration should you face aggravated assault charges is whether you faced a credible threat. The law permits you to respond to such a threat in kind if you believe it necessary to defend yourself or others. Officials assume such a threat exists if one attempts to unlawfully enter your home, vehicle or place of business.