Criminal Law

Assault

Definition: An unlawful attack by one person upon another.

Agencies participating in the UCR Program must collect assault information on the offenses that are aggravated in nature, as well as on those that are not. Assaults that are not aggravated are classified by the national Program as Other Assaults—Simple, Not Aggravated (4e).

Aggravated Assault

Definition: An unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury. This type of assault usually is accompanied by the use of a weapon or by means likely to produce death or great bodily harm.

  • Firearm
  • Knife or Cutting Instrument
  • Other Dangerous Weapon
  • Hands, Fists, Feet, etc.
  • Other Assaults—Simple, Not Aggravated

The UCR Program considers a weapon to be a commonly known weapon (a gun, knife, club, etc.) or any other item which, although not usually thought of as a weapon, becomes one in the commission of a crime.

The categories of Aggravated Assault (4a-4d) include assaults or attempts to kill or murder; poisoning; assault with a dangerous or deadly weapon; maiming; mayhem; assault with explosives; and assault with disease (as in cases when the offender is aware that he/she is infected with a deadly disease and deliberately attempts to inflict the disease by biting, spitting, etc.). All assaults by one person upon another with the intent to kill, maim, or inflict severe bodily injury with the use of any dangerous weapon are classified as Aggravated Assault. It is not necessary that injury result from an aggravated assault when a gun, knife, or other weapon that could cause serious personal injury is used.

Occasionally, it is the practice of local jurisdictions to charge assailants in assault cases with assault and battery, disorderly conduct, domestic violence, or simple assault even though a knife, gun, or other weapon was used in the incident. This type of offense must be reported to the UCR Program as aggravated assault (4a-4d).

Aggravated Assault—Firearm

The category Aggravated Assault—Firearm (4a) includes all assaults in which a firearm of any type is used or is threatened to be used. Assaults with revolvers, automatic pistols, shotguns, zip guns, rifles, etc. are included in this category.

The following scenarios illustrate incidents known to law enforcement that reporting agencies must classify as Aggravated Assault—Firearm (4a):

  1. A man had an argument with his girlfriend. She left and later returned with a gun and shot the man, attempting to kill him. He recovered from his gunshot wound. The police arrested the woman. She was prosecuted for attempted murder.
  2. While an officer was attempting to serve a warrant, the individual ran from her. The subject turned and fired on the officer, wounding her. Assisting officers caught and arrested the individual.

Aggravated Assault—Knife or Cutting Instrument

The category Aggravated Assault—Knife or Cutting Instrument (4b) includes assaults wherein weapons such as knives, razors, hatchets, axes, cleavers, scissors, glass, broken bottles, and ice picks are used as cutting or stabbing objects or their use is threatened.

The following scenarios illustrate incidents known to law enforcement that reporting agencies must classify as Aggravated Assault—Knife or Cutting Instrument (4b):

  1. During a dice game, a heated argument erupted and one man stabbed another with a hypodermic needle. The victim recovered but refused to press charges against his attacker.
  2. During an argument, a man cut a woman with a razor. The police were unable to locate the suspect.

Aggravated Assault—Other Dangerous Weapon

The category Aggravated Assault—Other Dangerous Weapon (4c) includes assaults resulting from the use or threatened use of any object as a weapon in which serious injury does or could result. The weapons in this category include, but are not limited to, Mace, pepper spray, clubs, bricks, jack handles, tire irons, bottles, or other blunt instruments used to club or beat victims. Attacks by explosives, acid, lye, poison, scalding, burnings, etc. are also included in this category.

The following scenarios illustrate incidents known to law enforcement that reporting agencies must classify as Aggravated Assault—Other Dangerous Weapon (4c):

  1. At the scene of a riot, three police officers were attacked by 20 rioters who were armed with clubs and rocks. The police officers sustained injuries that caused them to be hospitalized. A total of 45 rioters, including 18 of those participating in the assaults, were arrested for disorderly conduct.
  2. During an argument, a man picked up a tire iron and hit his neighbors, a man and his wife. The man suffered a minor bruise, but the wife had a concussion from a blow to the head. The police arrested the attacker.
  3. During a physical altercation between two patrons at a local tavern, one of the men displayed a vial filled with a biological contaminant in a threatening manner. The police arrived at the tavern and arrested the individual.
  4. The police responded to a fight-in-progress call. They found the offender beating a victim about the face and head with a shoe. The victim suffered a cut that required several stitches. The offender was arrested at the scene.

Aggravated Assault—Hands, Fists, Feet, Etc.—Aggravated Injury

The category Aggravated Assault—Hands, Fists, Feet, etc.—Aggravated Injury (4d) includes only the attacks using personal weapons such as hands, arms, feet, fists, and teeth, that result in serious or aggravated injury. Reporting agencies must consider the seriousness of the injury as the primary factor in establishing whether the assault is aggravated or simple. They must classify the assault as aggravated if the personal injury is serious, for example, there are broken bones, internal injuries, or stitches required. On the other hand, they must classify the offense as simple assault if the injuries are not serious (abrasions, minor lacerations, or contusions) and require no more than usual first-aid treatment.

The following scenarios illustrate incidents known to law enforcement that reporting agencies must classify as Aggravated Assault—Hands, Fists, Feet, etc.—Aggravated Injury (4d):

  1. A man came home drunk. During an argument with his wife, he slapped her with an open hand and broke her jaw. The police arrested the husband, but his wife refused to prosecute.
  2. During an argument over a parking space, one man pushed another to the ground. The man on the ground suffered an abrasion and a broken wrist. The individual who pushed him was later arrested for assault.

Other Assaults—Simple, Not Aggravated

The category Other Assaults—Simple, Not Aggravated (4e) includes all assaults which do not involve the use of a firearm, knife, cutting instrument, or other dangerous weapon and in which the victim did not sustain serious or aggravated injuries. Simple assault is not a Part I offense—it is a Part II offense but is collected under 4e as a quality control matter and for the purpose of looking at total assault violence.

Agencies must classify as simple assault such offenses as assault and battery, injury caused by culpable negligence, intimidation, coercion, and all attempts to commit these offenses. Under certain circumstances, offenses of disorderly conduct, domestic violence, or affray must be classified as simple assault. (For more information about Other Assaults as a Part II offense, see page 139.)

The following scenarios illustrate incidents known to law enforcement that reporting agencies must classify as Other Assaults—Simple, Not Aggravated (4e):

  1. Several bar patrons were watching a football game on television. The supporters of the two teams exchanged heated words that led to a fist fight. The bartender called the police. None of the participants cooperated, so the police could not determine who started the fight. The police arrested six patrons who had suffered bruises and minor cuts and charged them with affray.
  2. A married couple was arguing about financial problems. The husband slapped his wife and left the house. The wife followed him, and they continued their argument. The police responded to a call by a neighbor. The wife told them that her husband slapped her. The police arrested the husband for domestic violence.
  3. An employee of a local retail establishment received numerous e-mail messages at work from her ex-boyfriend, against whom she had a restraining order. The e-mail messages contained sexually offensive material and threats of violence to the employee; she turned them over to the police.
  4. Police responded to a reported fight at a residence. Upon arrival, they discovered a man with a bruise around one eye. The man said that his son, aged 17, had struck him during an argument. The boy admitted to striking his father and apologized. The police documented the incident but did not arrest anyone at the scene because the father did not wish to press charges.
  5. Two men were waiting in a line to enter a nightclub. One man tried to bully the other man into giving up his place in line by threatening to punch him in the face. Refusing to be intimidated, the man reported the threat to the nightclub's bouncer who called the police. The police cited the bully but did not arrest anyone at the scene.

Aids to Classifying Assaults

Careful consideration of the following factors should assist reporting agencies in classifying assaults:

  1. The type of weapon employed or the use of an object as a weapon
  2. The seriousness of the injury
  3. The intent of the assailant to cause serious injury

Often, the weapon used or the extent of the injury sustained will be the deciding factor in distinguishing aggravated from simple assault. In only a limited number of instances should it be necessary for the agency to examine the intent of the assailant.

Prosecutorial policy in a jurisdiction must not dictate an agency's classification of an assault. Reporting agencies must examine and classify assaults according to the standard UCR definitions, regardless of whether they are termed misdemeanors or felonies by local definitions.

Aggravated assault is a troublesome crime to classify. If a number of persons are involved in a dispute or disturbance and law enforcement investigation cannot distinguish the aggressors from the victims, the reporting agency must count the number of persons assaulted as the number of offenses. In such circumstances, assault classifications may require agencies to identify and report both aggravated and simple assaults within the same crime scenario. Additionally, multiple types of weapons may be used during the commission of the assaults.

Occasionally, classifying offenses in this category will involve reporting offenses in two or more subcategories when reporting the assaults.

The following scenario offers an example of a multiple-offense situation in which some of the offenses must be classified as a simple assault and others as aggravated assault:

  1. During a confrontation between two groups of people, a fight occurred during which several of the participants were injured. None of the combatants were cooperative, and all claimed to be innocent. It was unclear to police who was responsible for which assault. The police arrested eight persons, five of whom were severely beaten and in need of emergency medical treatment.

Explanation: To report this crime to the UCR Program, law enforcement must report a total of eight assaults. Even though all the victims were not known, it was known that five persons were severely beaten. Therefore, reporting agencies must classify five offenses as Aggravated Assault—Hands, Fists, Feet, etc.—Aggravated Injury (4d) and three offenses as Other Assaults—Simple, Not Aggravated (4e).

The following scenario offers an example of a multiple-offense situation in which offenses must be classified in two aggravated assault subcategories:

  1. Police responding to a disturbance call found a juvenile gang fight in progress. The participants escaped, except for seven youths who suffered injuries. None would cooperate, and the police could not determine who started the fight. Three gang members were cut severely with knives. The remaining four suffered broken bones from being beaten with clubs. The police arrested the combatants who were under the age of 18 on felonious assault charges.

Explanation: A total of seven assault offenses must be reported: three offenses classified as Aggravated Assault—Knife or Cutting Instrument (4b) and four offenses classified as Aggravated Assault—Other Dangerous Weapon (4c).