Assault versus Aggravated Assault
Sometimes assaults are violent and intentional while other times they are not. Take two people arguing, for example. You get into a heated argument and shove the other party. While you have no intention of harming them, if they complained to law enforcement, you could be arrested for assault. Even threatening someone of physical violence could result in an assault charge. Therefore, it is imperative you understand how New Mexico views these crimes and what you can do to protect yourself.
Assault Is a Misdemeanor (Generally)
Assault charges without deadly weapons are charged as petty misdemeanors – typically. To be charged with misdemeanor assault, you must attempt to assault a person or even threaten to cause harm. Realize that you do not have to physically strike a person to be charged and convicted of assault. If a person fears that they are in danger of becoming a victim of battery, you may be arrested and convicted of assault and face misdemeanor penalties.
The Penalties of Assault
While labeled as a “petty misdemeanor,” you still have a criminal record to deal with for the rest of your life. Also, you have penalties for your assault that include up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500.
Aggravated Assault Is a Felony
Aggravated assault is more severe and charged with a fourth-degree felony. When you commit aggravated assault, you are physically harming a person and while using a deadly weapon. A deadly weapon can be any object perceived as a threat and not just a firearm. For example, a piece of wood that could potentially bludgeon someone may qualify as a deadly weapon – taking an assault into aggravated assault territory.
You must have the willful intent to harm another person to commit aggravated assault. Accidentally causing injury does not constitute aggravated assault charges.
The Types of Aggravated Assault
Aggravated assault has different classifications and levels based on acts made during the crime. Some common types of aggravated assault include:
- Regular Aggravated Assault – Aggravated assault that includes assaulting or striking a person with a deadly weapon. Also, willfully or intentionally assaulting a person as part of the intention to commit another felony.
- Assault with a Concealed Identity – Aggravated assault committed while concealing identity, such as wearing a mask or clothing that covers the head and face.
- Assault with the Intent to Commit a Felony – For example, you are committing an assault to rob someone.
The Penalties of Aggravated Assault
Penalties for aggravated assault are more complicated, and there are protected victim classes that can enhance the penalty if convicted.
If you are convicted of aggravated assault, which is a fourth-degree felony, you can face up to 18 months imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000. You may also have a five-year probationary period or one-year parole sentence. If damages occur, then you may be forced to engage in court-ordered restitution to the victim.
Protected victims have enhanced penalties. Victims including school employees, health care workers, or sports officials who are performing their job at the time of the assault are classified as “protected victims.” If convicted of aggravated assault of a protected victim, you could face:
- Up to 9 years imprisonment – or 15 years if the assault results in death – and a fine of up to $12,500.
- A probationary period of up to 5 years.
- Restitution paid to the victim or their family
The Long-Term Consequences of an Assault Conviction
Whether charged with misdemeanor or felony, you will deal with a conviction the rest of your life. Many defendants make the mistake of assuming a misdemeanor does not carry serious consequences, and they will accept a plea from the prosecution for a misdemeanor if the penalties are not severe.
Even if you spend a handful of months in jail versus years in prison, you are not considering the long-term consequences of that conviction.
Criminal convictions can bar you permanently from specific jobs such as teaching or entering the military. It can also disqualify you from public aid programs, including government funding. Furthermore, you may be disqualified from housing – especially if that housing district refuses applicants for violent acts (assault included).
If you were to serve one month in jail, you are likely to lose your job. While you are out of work, you may be unable to pay your bills, causing debt. Family and friends may also have a negative view of you, and society often treats those with a criminal record with a negative social stigma – regardless of how innocent the charges might have been.
Can I Get a Reduced Charge?
You have defense options at your disposal that may reduce the charges or get them dropped entirely. However, it is imperative that you speak with a criminal defense attorney about your case to find out which defense strategy applies.
Most defense strategies focus on proving that you did not intend to cause harm, or you had no intention of making the victim feel like they were in danger. Depending on the case, you may be able to argue that there was no way you caused the injuries claimed by the victim.
Speak with a Criminal Defense Attorney Immediately
If you or a loved one has been arrested for assault, it is imperative that you contact an attorney as soon as possible. The faster an attorney is involved, the easier it will be to build a case and possibly lessen the chances of your case going to trial.