In Georgia, assault and battery crimes consist of simple assault, aggravated assault, simple battery, battery, and aggravated battery. This article outlines the crimes and penalties for aggravated assault and aggravated battery.
For information on simple assaults and batteries, see Georgia Assault and Battery Laws.
Assault and battery offenses range in severity from simple to aggravated, but all start with the following underlying definitions.
Assault. Assault in Georgia is an attempt to cause physical injury to another person—for instance, attempting to strike someone with a hand or object and missing. Assault also includes any intentional act or threat of action that reasonably causes a person to feel afraid of impending violence. Threatening to beat up someone or to "break your arm" can be assault if it appears that the assailant has the ability to carry out the threat and the victim reasonably believes the assailant is about to do so.
Battery. Battery is actual offensive or insulting physical contact, such as punching another person or hitting someone with an object. Striking another person with a fist during an argument or pushing someone are straightforward examples of battery.
Aggravated assault—a felony in Georgia—is an assault that is committed:
Aggravated battery—also a felony—occurs when an offender maliciously inflicts serious bodily injury to the victim, such as loss of a limb, loss of use of a limb, or serious disfigurement.
A person convicted of an aggravated assault or aggravated battery faces the following penalties:
Minimum sentences apply when an offender commits aggravated assault or battery:
For instance, a person who commits aggravated assault or battery against a public safety officer (defined as law enforcement, firefighter, emergency health workers, and correctional officers) faces a minimum prison sentence of three, five, or ten years depending on the circumstances involved. Similar minimum penalties apply when victims include school personnel or students, family members or intimate partners, court officers, or adults age 65 or older. The harshest penalty—25 to 50 years in prison—applies to an aggravated assault involving the intent to rape a child younger than 14.
Someone who already has one or more felony convictions on his criminal record can be required to serve the maximum sentence for aggravated assault or battery. Other enhanced sentences may apply if the offender committed the crime based on bias, prejudice, or hate.
The court can impose probation instead of prison time for the entire sentence or after the defendant has spent some time in jail. For instance, a judge in an aggravated battery case could sentence a defendant to three years in jail and two years on probation. Probation for aggravated assault or battery can last up to 20 years.
In a probation sentence, the judge imposes the sentence but stops short of sending the defendant to prison. Typically, a probationer must meet regularly with a probation officer and follow all conditions set by the court, such as remaining law-abiding (no additional arrests or convictions), attending counseling, or performing community service. If a defendant violates a condition of probation, the judge can revoke the suspended sentence and require the defendant to serve time in prison, jail, or another correctional facility (such as probation boot camp).
Anyone convicted of assault or battery in Georgia can be required to pay restitution, which means reimbursing the victim for any expenses resulting from the crime, such as the cost of medical treatment or counseling.
If you are facing a charge of assault or battery in Georgia, a criminal defense attorney can investigate the case and determine if you were wrongfully charged or if other reasons exist for dismissing the case before trial. An attorney can also represent you in a bail hearing.
If the charges are not dismissed, an attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor or prepare a defense and represent you at trial. Prosecutors often will negotiate and agree to let the defendant plead guilty to a different, less serious crime. Or, the prosecutor may agree to a lighter sentence, such as probation, in exchange for a plea of guilty to the charge.
A felony conviction will seriously impact your life. A convicted felon loses the right to vote, hold public office, serve as a juror, and carry or own firearms. In certain circumstances, a felony conviction also can result in the loss of a professional license. If a felon is convicted later of another crime, that felony record can mean a harsher sentence in the new case. A felony conviction—particularly one for a violent crime—also 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.
(O.C.G.A. §§ 16-5-20, -21, -23, -23.1, -24; 17-6-12; 17-10-1, -7, -17; 42-8-34 (2021).)