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What is the Difference Between Attempted Murder and Aggravated Assault?

In late December of 2020, a gentleman was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, and a number of other charges. A district court judge read the defendant the charges filed against him after a six-month old girl was found with injuries consistent with shaken baby syndrome. Bail was denied for the defendant and he will remain in custody until his trial date.

The story, while disturbing, also sheds light on an interesting topic that criminal defense lawyers are asked about quite often. What is the difference between attempted murder and aggravated assault?

What is Aggravated Assault?

Aggravated assault occurs when one person causes, or attempts to cause, serious bodily injury to another person. The definition of a serious bodily injury is one that creates a substantial risk of death or that could result in permanent disfigurement, or a loss or serious impairment of a body organ or function.

The prosecution must prove all of the above elements of this offense. The Commonwealth must also prove that the conduct of the defendant was intentional, meaning they must have purposely caused serious bodily injury, or that they purposely attempted to cause serious bodily injury. The Commonwealth does not need to prove an actual injury was incurred, but only that the defendant took a substantial action that could have caused a life-threatening injury to the victim.

What is Attempted Murder?

The difference between attempted murder and aggravated assault is mainly intent. To prove a defendant is guilty of attempted murder, the prosecution must prove that they had a specific intent to take the life of their victim. Similar to the offense of aggravated assault, in an attempted murder case the prosecution must also prove that the defendant took real and substantial steps to carry out the murder.

Defenses to Aggravated Assault and Attempted Murder

Due to the fact that aggravated assault and attempted murder both involve seriously injuring another person, the penalties for those convicted are extremely strict. Even if you do not have a criminal record, you could still face between five and 10 years in prison, along with a long probation period, after you are released from jail. As such, it is crucial that you speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer that can help with your case.

A criminal defense lawyer will understand the defenses to these crimes. The most common defense is self-defense. While that strategy would likely not work in the recent case, as the victim was an infant, it can work very effectively in other cases. To use this defense, you must have a reasonable fear that your safety or life is in danger, and take reasonable steps to protect yourself.

Our Criminal Defense Lawyers in Pennsylvania Can Help with Your Charges

Facing charges of either aggravated assault or attempted murder is very scary. At van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin, our experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers know this, but we also know that you have options. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our lawyers and to learn of the defense strategy that is right for your case.


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