An ordinary assault occurs in Maine when a victim suffers a “bodily injury.” The more serious crime of aggravated assault – the subject of this article – occurs when the injury is caused by a dangerous weapon, or when the victim suffers not just bodily injury but a “serious bodily injury.”
Ordinary assault can be either a Class C or Class D crime; to learn more, see Assault in Maine.
Maine also has a crime called elevated aggravated assault, a Class A crime. To learn about elevated aggravated assault, see Elevated Aggravated Assault in Maine.
(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 17-A §§ 207; 208-B)
What is Aggravated Assault?
Aggravated assault can be committed in three ways. First, a person can commit aggravated assault by intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing a victim to suffer a “serious bodily injury.” Second, aggravated assault occurs if a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes a bodily injury by using a “dangerous weapon.” Third, aggravated assault can be charged if a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes a bodily injury to another person “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.”
(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 17-A § 208).
Acting intentionally means that the actor wants to cause injury or subject a victim to offensive physical contact.
(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 17-A § 35(1))
A person acts knowingly when he is aware that his actions will almost certainly cause an injury or result in offensive physical contact.
(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 17-A § 35(2))
A person acts recklessly by choosing to ignore the fact that there is a great risk his acts will result in either injury or offensive physical contact. For instance, pushing someone down a flight of stairs is a reckless act.
(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 17-A § 35(3))
Several factors come into play when determining whether a person caused injury while acting under circumstances indicating extreme indifference to human life. Those factors include the number and type of injuries a victim sustained, how the attacker caused the injuries, and how badly injured the victim appears. Extreme indifference is exemplified by an extremely severe beating or an attack on a particularly helpless victim.
Bodily injury and substantial bodily injury
Maine law defines a bodily injury as “physical pain, physical illness or any impairment of physical condition.” (Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 17-A § 2(5).) Under that definition, aggravated assault can be charged even if a victim suffers only pain.
A substantial bodily injury goes beyond the basic definition. It is an injury that results in either a substantial risk of dying, serious, permanent disfigurement, the loss or major impairment of a body part or organ, or prolonged convalescence.
(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 17-A § 2(23))
The definition of a weapon used to cause an injury is quite broad. The definition includes items that would be traditionally viewed as weapons, like guns. But the definition also includes any other object that, while not usually a weapon, can nonetheless be used in a way that can cause death or serious injury. For example, a piece of lumber can be a dangerous weapon if it’s used to hit a victim’s head.
Punishment for aggravated assault can range from probation to incarceration (or a combination of both), plus a fine. Terms of incarceration in Maine are for what are known as a “definite term,” which means that a judge can choose a precise sentence from within a given range.
As a Class B crime, aggravated assault carries a term of incarceration of up to ten years. A definite term of incarceration could be ten years, or one day, or any other number of days within that range. If the sentence imposed is nine months or less, the sentence will be served in a county jail. If the sentence is greater than nine months, it will be served in state prison.
(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 17-A § 1252).
If a defendant convicted of a Class B aggravated assault is placed on probation instead of incarcerated, the probation term cannot exceed three years (Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 17-A § 1202.)
Aside from incarceration or probation, a person convicted of aggravated assault can be fined up to $20,000.
(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 17-A § 1301).
Consult With a Lawyer
A defendants charged with aggravated assault could benefit from consulting with an attorney having knowledge of the assault laws and penalties applicable in your case. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney will have a sense of how to convince either a prosecutor or a jury that a defendant did not cause an injury sufficient to warrant a charge of aggravated assault. If the attorney succeeds, a defendant could benefit through a lesser charge, a lesser punishment, or even dismissal of a case.