Felony assault in Mississippi is known as "aggravated assault." Those charged face the possibility of serious penalties, including large fines and substantial time in state prison. Prosecutors may bring a charge of aggravated assault in the following circumstances.
Less serious assaults are charged as misdemeanors. For more information on misdemeanor assault in Mississippi, see Simple Assault in Mississippi.
Under Mississippi law, a person commits an aggravated assault if he:
- attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another person
- intentionally or recklessly causes serious bodily injury to another while acting with extreme indifference to human life
- attempts or causes bodily injury to another person with a deadly weapon or by other means likely to cause death or serious bodily injury, or
- causes injury to a child who is in the process of boarding or exiting a school bus if the offender has failed to stop for the bus according to traffic laws.
(Miss. Code Ann. §97-3-7.)
Aggravated assault is a felony in Mississippi and the possible punishment is up to one year in jail or up to twenty years in prison.
A reckless act is one that is committed, not necessarily with intent to harm another, but without regard for the outcome. Acting with extreme indifference to the value of human life is very similar to recklessness. The actor does not need to intend to injure to the victim. He may intend to shoot a person other than the victim but take no precautions to avoid hurting others. He may shoot a gun into a crowd to appear menacing but without regard for whether he actually injures someone in the crowd. To be reckless or to act with extreme indifference to human life is to act with extreme carelessness.
Bodily Injury and Serious Bodily Injury
Serious bodily injury is more serious than a cut, scrape or bruise. An assault is an aggravated assault if the offender causes or attempts to cause a broken bone, disfigurement, loss of a limb, a serious head injury, or an injury that requires surgery and/or hospitalization.
Bodily injury is any injury to the human body, including minor scrapes and bruises.
Deadly Weapon or Other Means Likely to Cause Death or Serious Bodily Injury
A deadly weapon is any object that, by definition, is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury such as a gun, knife, or sword. An assault with a deadly weapon is an aggravated assault in Mississippi.
An assault is also an aggravated assault if the crime is committed by means that can likely cause death or serious injury. “Means” refers to an object or to the use of the body. An assault is an aggravated assault if the crime is committed with an object that is dangerous because of the way the object is used. A motor vehicle, a rope, a pair of steel boot, and a stick are all objects that can be used in a manner that is likely to cause serious injury. Fists or feet also can cause serious injury so, if an offender attacks a person in a manner that is intense and prolonged, the act can be considered an aggravated assault because the use of the hands or feet can be considered a “dangerous means.”
Note that under Mississippi’s aggravated assault statute, if a person commits an assault with a deadly weapon or by dangerous means, he need only intend minor injury and whether injury actually results is irrelevant. Proof that the offender intentionally attacked another is all that the prosecutor needs for a conviction for aggravated assault if a weapon or dangerous means is involved.
If an offender uses a firearm in the commission of an aggravated assault in Mississippi, the minimum sentence is five years in prison. (Miss. Code Ann. §97-37-37.)
Discriminatory Intent Enhancement
If an offender commits an aggravated assault because of the victim’s actual or perceived color, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion or gender, the court can impose twice the sentence or the fine provided for aggravated assault. (Miss. Code Ann. §§99-19-301, 307.)
Aggravated Assault Against Certain Victims
Aggravated assault against certain victims designated in Mississippi’s assault statute exposes the offender to even more serious penalties than those for aggravated assault. Mississippi law designates several “special” victims including but not limited to:
- a legislator or other elected official
- law enforcement officer, corrections officer or firefighter
- emergency medical personnel
- social worker or family protection worker employed by the Human Services Department
- public school administrator or teacher
- judge or certain court employees, and
- a person over the age of 64 and an incapacitated or disabled adult.
If a special victim is designated by his employment status, he must be performing his duties as an employee at the time of the assault. Aggravated assault against one of these special victims is punishable by up to thirty years in prison or a fine up to $5000, or both.
Aggravated Domestic Violence
Aggravated assault committed against a spouse, a family member who resides or previously resided with the offender, or someone whom the offender is dating is aggravated domestic violence and can subject the offender to higher penalties under certain circumstances. For information about the crime of domestic violence in Mississippi, see Criminal Domestic Violence Laws in Mississippi.
A person convicted of aggravated assault in Mississippi can be required to pay restitution up to $5000, which involves reimbursing the victim for any expenses resulting from the crime, such as the cost of medical treatment or counseling or repair or replacement of damaged property. (Miss. Code Ann. §97-37-3.)
Suspended Sentence and Probation
A court in Mississippi can suspend all or a portion of a jail or prison sentence as long as the defendant successfully completes probation and/or any other conditions the court imposes. A person on supervised probation must meet with a probation officer and comply with conditions of probation such as treatment, maintaining employment and avoiding any further criminal activity or arrests. If the defendant violates any conditions set by the Court, he can be required to serve the rest of the sentence in jail or prison.
Pleas and Pre-Trial Options
If you are facing a charge of aggravated assault in Mississippi, an attorney can investigate the case and determine if you were wrongfully charged or there are other reasons why the case should be dismissed before trial. If the charges are not dismissed, an attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor on your behalf, or he will prepare a defense and represent you at trial.
The Value of Good Representation
A felony conviction becomes part of your permanent criminal record. If you are convicted later of another crime, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case. A convicted felon loses the right to vote, hold public office, serve as a juror (for seven years) and carry or own firearms. In certain circumstances, a felony conviction also can result in loss of a professional license. A conviction for a violent felony can hurt you when you are looking for a job or applying to rent a house or apartment.
Only someone familiar with the local criminal court system and cases like yours will know how good your chances are for a favorable outcome in court or at the negotiating table. A knowledgeable attorney will take all of this into consideration, assist you in making decisions about your case, and protect your rights.