Serving the Areas of Portland, Bangor, Saco, Biddeford and Augusta
Social attitudes towards assault have undergone quite a sea of change in the last few decades. Not very long ago, hitting someone over the head with a beer bottle might result in nothing more than a charge of disorderly conduct, even if the victim was briefly hospitalized. Now it can result in years of incarceration.
The Maine criminal justice system bears two distinct characteristics, neither of which are favorable to criminal defendants, especially those who attempt to represent themselves. The first is the complexity of the system, and the second is the aggressiveness of our prosecutors when the defendant has been charged with a violent crime.
In Maine, the most serious criminal offense aside from gross sexual assault, murder or attempted murder is an aggravated assault. An aggravated assault requires that serious bodily injury be inflicted upon the victim. If convicted of an aggravated assault, you're facing up to ten years in prison, a $10,000.00 fine and a term of probation.
According to 17-A, Sect. 208, a person is guilty of aggravated assault under the following conditions:
- If you inflict serious, bodily injury upon the victim; or
- If a weapon was used in the attack against the victim;
- Bodily injury under circumstances demonstrating extreme indifference to human to the value of human life. Examples include the nature and location of the injuries, the manner in which the injuries were inflicted, the observable physical condition of the victim and the use of strangulation in the attack.
The use of strangulation in a case between a husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend is exceptionally concerning as an allegation of strangulation alone will support a charge of Aggravated Domestic Violence.
Examples of aggravated assault include striking someone with a baseball bat or a tire iron; stabbing someone with a knife; beating someone to the point that they are hospitalized; causing someone serious internal injuries; causing injuries that result in the loss of a body part or loss of the use of a body part; causing injuries that result in having to undergo physical therapy to regain the use of motor functions or a limb.
Defenses to Aggravated Assault
In the case of any crime of violence, sometimes it's not always clear who is truly the victim and who is actually the defendant. "Victim" and "Defendant" are just labels and the placement of those labels are oftentimes arbitrary.
If you're assaulted by another person, you're entitled to defend yourself. Sometimes, you maybe entitled to use deadly force in order to protect yourself and/or another person. Of course, the use of deadly force is only authorized in certain circumstances, such as the following:
- You reasonably believe that the use of deadly force will be used against you, imminently;
- You have no reasonable, safe means of retreat.
You may not use deadly force in the defense of property except in cases of arson.
Another type of defense concerns not the assault itself, but the nature of the injuries. Perhaps there is no claim of defense. Perhaps you are actually in the wrong and were the aggressor in the assault. However, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the injuries do in fact qualify as an aggravated assault. If a jury or judge doesn't believe that the injuries are serious bodily injuries, then the State can't prove your guilt on the felony Aggravated Assault charge.
Remember, the State must always prove each and every element of the crime by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Have You Been Charged with Assault?
If you have been charged with assault, it's critical that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible to assess your options, compile evidence, and plan your defense. Contact the Law Office of William T. Bly today by calling 207-571-8146 or by filling out our online contact form.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is it possible to reduce my charge to simple assault rather than aggravated assault?
A criminal defense attorney might pursue this option by denying the prosecution's assertion that one of the three legal “aggravating factors” exists. He could assert, for example, that:
- the weapon involved was not “dangerous”;
- the victim's bodily injury was not “serious”; or
- the character of the attack did not evidence an “extreme indifference to the value of human life.”
A skilled criminal lawyer will take advantage of ambiguity in the wording of the law.
What is a “dangerous weapon” and how does that relate to my charge?
A “dangerous” weapon is a weapon that can be used to inflict death or serious bodily harm. The use of a dangerous weapon in an assault results in a charge of aggravated assault rather than simple assault. All firearms are considered dangerous weapons, and certain other weapons, such as baseball bats, can also be considered as such.
What is a Motion to Suppress?
A Motion to Suppress is a motion presented from a lawyer to a judge asking the judge to prevent certain evidence from being used at trial because its admission would violate the Rules of Evidence. Evidence seized without a warrant or a valid exception to the warrant requirement could be suppressed, for example.
What is “elevated aggravated assault”?
Elevated aggravated assault is the most serious form of assault (more serious than aggravated assault). Certain additional aggravating factors can trigger this charge – for example, using a dangerous weapon to inflict “serious” bodily harm (instead of using a dangerous weapon to inflict [“non-serious”] bodily harm).
What is a “Dispositional Conference”?
A Dispositional Conference is a pre-trial conference between the prosecutor and the criminal defense lawyer in which they attempt to negotiate a resolution to the case (a plea bargain, for example) without a trial.
Can my fists alone be considered “deadly force”?
Yes, under certain circumstances. It all depends on your intentions and on the way you used your fists. If you have been trained to use your fists in a deadly manner (in the military, for example) and you use them in that manner, the use of your fists could be considered the use of deadly force. Keep in mind, however, that under certain circumstances the use of deadly force is legally justified.
What are some of the legal defenses against an aggravated assault or misdemeanor assault charge?
The three most common defenses (other than lack of evidence) are:
- Defense of others; and
- Consent (in a boxing match or even a consensual street fight).
What do I need to prove to justify assaulting someone in defense of a third person (my girlfriend, for example)
The following requirements must be met:
- You must have believed that there was an imminent threat of bodily harm to the third person that legally justified the degree of force that you used; and
- Your belief must have been objectively reasonable. If your belief was unreasonable, even if sincerely held, this defense will fail. Note that the threat you responded to need not have been real – it simply must have been reasonable for you to believe that it was real, and you must have actually believed that it was real.
Can I win an acquittal if the police failed to “read me my rights”?
It depends on the circumstances. If you confessed after the police failed to read you your rights, your confession can be thrown out (it cannot be used as evidence against you). If there is no other admissible evidence sufficient to convict you, you could walk free. If there is other evidence against you, however, you could still be prosecuted without the confession being used as evidence.
What are the worst mistakes I can make in my case?
In my experience, the most serious mistakes commonly made by criminal defendants are:
- Confessing – especially if the physical evidence against you is weak
- Trying to explain things to the police instead of invoking your right to silence.
- Attempting to represent yourself, or selecting an inexperienced criminal defense attorney to represent you.
Need Help? Give Us a Call
If you're not sure what the charges against you mean, and you need an attorney to help guide you through the process, get in touch with us today. You can give us a call at 207-571-8146 or fill out our contact form and we'll be happy to review your case free of charge.