Any charge of assault needs to be taken very seriously, as an assault conviction carries significant criminal penalties, and will leave you with a criminal record of violent crime that affects many aspects of day-to-day life, including your career and financial future.
However, aggravated assault carries even more severe penalties. Depending on the severity of the offense, aggravated assault may be charged as a felony, which carries mandatory jail time and the lifelong consequences of being a convicted felon.
Below we review how Illinois defines assault, aggravating factors that could bump your charge from simple assault to aggravated assault, and the criminal penalties for aggravated assault.
How Illinois Defines Assault and Battery
In Illinois, assault is any intentional behavior that causes the victim to feel afraid of impending violence. Words alone do not constitute assault, but any threat that is accompanied by conduct consistent with the threat (for example, a menacing tone) is considered assault if it causes the victim to reasonably believe that he or she is in immediate physical danger.
Battery covers actual physical contact with the victim, such as pushing the victim or causing the victim bodily harm.
Because assault and battery refer to distinct criminal acts, state prosecutors are able to charge the two offenses separately. However, the offense is frequently charged only as battery if actual physical contact with the victim occurred.
Aggravating Factors in Illinois Assault and Battery Cases
In Illinois, simple assault is a Class C misdemeanor, while simple battery is a Class A misdemeanor. However, the presence of certain aggravating factors can upgrade the charge to aggravated assault or battery.
There are a number of factors that are considered “aggravating,” including the use of a weapon or causing significant bodily harm to the victim. Let’s look at each one below:
- Use of a deadly weapon to make the threat, including a firearm
- Use of a false firearm that is designed to look like a real firearm
- Operating a motor vehicle in a manner that causes the victim to fear he or she will be struck
- Knowingly recording the assault with the intent to disseminate the recording
- Committing the assault in a public place, on a public road, on school property, or in a public facility such as a sports arena
- Committing the assault against a victim who is a police officer, firefighter, emergency responder, public employee, over 60 years of age, or someone who is physically handicapped
The following elements may cause a battery charge to be elevated to aggravated battery:
- The defendant knowingly causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the victim
- The defendant strangles the victim or blocks the victim’s nose or mouth
- The victim is a police officer, firefighter, emergency responder, public employee, over 60 years of age, or physically handicapped
- The victim is a child under the age of 13, or a profoundly mentally handicapped adult, and the battery results in bodily harm
- Committing the battery in a public place, on a public road, on school property, or in a public facility such as a sports arena
- The offense is committed using a firearm or a laser device attached to a firearm, and the laser light touches the victim
- The defendant discharges a firearm and causes bodily injury to the victim
- The defendant commits the battery with a deadly weapon
- The defendant wears a hood, mask, or other clothing to conceal his or her identity
- The defendant provides a controlled substance that the victim consumes, and the substances causes the victim bodily harm
- The defendant causes the victim to ingest a harmful or intoxicating substance
- If the defendant is an inmate at a correctional facility, and commits battery against staff or officers using blood, feces, urine, or other bodily fluid
- Knowingly recording the battery with the intention to disseminate the recording
- Committing battery against an unborn child
What It Means to be Charged with Aggravated Assault in Illinois
Aggravated assault is charged as a Class A misdemeanor, Class 3 felony, or Class 4 felony, depending on the circumstances of the assault. If a firearm is used against certain victims, or if the firearm is discharged in commission of the assault, this is generally charged as a Class 3 felony.
An aggravated battery is charged as a Class 3 felony if one aggravating factor is present. If multiple aggravating factors are present, it can be charged as a Class X, Class 1, or Class 2 felony.
As you can see, these charges can be incredibly serious. That’s why it’s important to know the laws surrounding Illinois assault and battery, and to be proactive in fighting back to beat any charges against you.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.