In our state, an assault charge means that the offender caused the victim to be afraid of immediate violence. That’s it.
You do not actually have to have made physical contact or caused bodily harm to be charged with assault. To make matters worse, an assault charge can be bumped up to an aggravated assault, resulting in harsher charges and penalties.
What exactly is aggravated assault?
Aggravated Assault Involves Aggravating Factors
In any crime, aggravating or mitigating factors are circumstances or factors that will affect the charge and any associated penalties. Aggravating factors are factors that are considered to make the crime more serious. Therefore, they tend to result in longer sentences. Mitigating factors, in contrast, can alleviate your sentence.
However, only aggravating factors will change the actual charges you receive (i.e. from assault to aggravated assault, kidnapping to aggravated kidnapping, and so on).
Specifically talking about assault charges, the following factors may bump your charge up to aggravated assault:
- Use of a deadly weapon or firearm
- Use of an object designed to look like a deadly weapon or firearm
- Wearing hoods, robes, or other disguises to hide your identity
- Operating a motor vehicle to cause a victim imminent fear of danger
- Records the assault (video or audio) with the intention of distributing the recording
- Assaults someone in a public place or facility such as a road, highway, school, or sports arena
- Commits assault against a “special victim”
That last one seems to beg for a bit more clarification, no? “Special victims” under Illinois law include:
- Peace officers
- Emergency medical personnel
- Public or educational employees
- People with physical handicaps
- Seniors (adults over the age of 60)
Increased Sentences for Aggravated Assault in Illinois
Simple assault in Illinois is charged as a Class C misdemeanor. The penalties for a Class C misdemeanor include up to 30 days in prison and/or fines of up to $1,500. If you are not sentenced to prison, you may face up to two years of probation, up to 120 hours of community service, or restitution paid to victims.
Aggravated assault in Illinois is charged as either a Class A misdemeanor or a Class 3 or 4 felony. It all depends on the circumstances and aggravating factors present.
For example, if you are charged with aggravated assault because the assault involved a deadly weapon (other than a firearm), you will be charged with Class A misdemeanor. If the same assault involves special victims, your charge will be bumped up to a Class 4 felony.
Using a firearm while committing an assault is also charged as a Class 4 felony. If you used the firearm while in a motor vehicle, your charge will be bumped up to a Class 3 felony.
Keep in mind that the sentences for these charges are higher than the average sentences for Class 3 or 4 felonies. This is due to the aggravating factors present. The sentence may be even more severe if you have been convicted of these offenses before.
Penalties for a Class A misdemeanor include up to one year in prison and/or fines of up to $2,500. If you are not sentenced to jail, you will face up to two years of probation and restitution to victims.
Penalties for a Class 4 felony include up to three to six years in prison and/or fines of up to $25,000.
Penalties for a Class 3 felony include a mandatory minimum of 10 days in prison or 300 hours of community service. The penalties also include 5-10 years in prison and/or fines of up to $25,000.
Defenses against Aggravated Assault Charges
As you can see from the classification of aggravated assault, each aggravating factor is important to tackle. Lowering your charges from a Class 4 felony to a Class A misdemeanor will have a huge impact on your case, as well as your sentencing if you are found guilty.
If you have been charged with aggravated assault, talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer today about lowering your charges and proving your innocence in court with an aggressive defense strategy.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, Murder, and drug crimes.