Assault is the term used for when a person does severe damage to someone else or at least attempted to. Assault can be on purpose or through negligence and recklessness. There are two different types of assault.

Simple assault is a threat or an attempt to injure another person without directly hitting them or causing them any harm. Aggravated assault is the term used for more severe attacks against another person. While there is no direct definition of aggravated assault, there are circumstances that will turn a simple assault into an aggravated one. For instance, assault with a weapon will be considered to be aggravated assault. Oddly enough, beating someone with your fists could be called simple assault, but threatening someone with a bat would be regarded as aggravated assault because the threat involved a deadly weapon.


Many states break down aggravated assaults into smaller categories. The smaller groups for aggravated assaults are split into degrees one through four. By splitting up the term assault, the courts can handle the crimes more efficiently.


  • First degree: A first degree aggravated assault is when a person premeditated their attack and executed the attack with the intent to injure another person severely
  • Second degree: When a person attacks someone without planning the attack, it is considered a second-degree aggravated assault.
  • Third degree: Aggravated assaults of the third degree are for people who attempt to cause another person less severe harm. Men and women involved in fights often receive a third-degree aggravated assaults.
  • Fourth degree: Fourth degree aggravated assaults are merely threats or causing someone to fear of harm.


There are a few other facts that are factored into deciding if an assault was simple or aggravated. The factors are:

  • The severity of an injury: The severity of the injury that a victim also sustains in reviewed when classifying an assault. Any assault where a victim receives serious injury will likely be categorized as aggravated. Serious bodily harm is any damage that causes acute physical pain, severe or permanent damage, unconsciousness, or long-term loss of function. Injuries that have a high risk of death are also considered to be serious bodily harm.
  • The identity of the victim: Depending on who the victim is, a simple assault may change to aggravated assault. Attacking police is automatically considered aggravated assault in most states. Assaults that target children also often result in a severe aggravated assault charge.
  • The intent of the assaulter: the motivation for the perpetrator is important when deciding if an assault was simple or aggravated. A perpetrator who is mentally unstable may receive a less severe charge, and an assaulter with sound judgment who intended to cause another person serious harm will be given a more harsher punishment. Some states also classify reckless or foolish behavior as aggravated assault.
  • Aggravated domestic assaults: Assaults that happen at home or between family members are considered to be domestic assaults. Any assault that occurs between parents, spouse or formal spouse, siblings, boy or girlfriend, or any other person residing in the same house. The standard for a domestic assault to be considered aggravated are much lower, so the use of a weapon or severe bodily harm does not have to be present for the assault to be aggravated. Domestic assaults that occur against children may be seen as child neglect or even abuse.


Possible defenses to an aggravated assault charge vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However, there are a few arguments that hold up in almost any case.

Consent: If the perpetrator can show that they had consent from the victim for the injury, they will not be found guilty of an assault charge. A person gives consent to bodily harm when they agree to boxing or a wrestling match, participate in physical and mutual horseplay, or directly ask to be hurt.

Prevention of a crime: A person may be charged with assault for defending themselves or the people around them. However, if they can display to the court that they were fighting in self-defense, or preventing crime, the charge will often be dropped.

Defense of property: An assaulter attacks another person out of the interest of protecting their property or belongings may be able to avoid an assault charge. It is then left the courts discretion to decide if the severity of the assault matches the severity of the threat the victim posed on the accused’s property.

If you have been accused of assault, an experienced criminal defense attorney in Columbia can make the difference between a third-degree charge and a first-degree offense.