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What is the difference between aggravated and simple assault?

In Washington a simple assault against a person may result in an arrest and criminal charges. The outcome of such situations will depend upon the circumstances surrounding the attack, and the actual action that took place.

In Washington state, attacking someone physically is a crime. In most states physical attacks or even threats of attack can be considered an assault. A person who commits an assault may face charges that result in serious penalties upon conviction, depending on the severity of the assault. Assault has two categories: simple assault and aggravated assault. Use of a weapon plays a big factor in classifying an assault crime. A physical attack against an individual may be charged as a simple assault if it is committed without the use of a weapon and does not lead to serious injuries.

An aggravated assault is often defined as an attack against another individual which results in extensive bodily harm. Thus, if someone attacks another person and the victim sustains serious injuries, the perpetrator of the crime may be charged with aggravated assault in many states. The use of a weapon in committing an assault may also lead to an aggravated assault charge in many jurisdictions.

This is generally true even if the victim is not injured. Weapons such as guns, knives and other objects that can harm a victim may escalate a simple assault charge to an aggravated one.

Defenses are available to those charged with assault. In many cases assault charges arise out of violent and confusing altercations in which the recollections of witnesses vary significantly. In cases like this defense counsel can often demonstrate to a jury that there is reasonable doubt as to who was the aggressor.


Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Assault," accessed on Mar. 5, 2015

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