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How do aggravating factors impact criminal charges?

Facing criminal assault charges can be an overwhelming and stressful situation. It can become even more so if one is charged with “aggravated assault.”

We have all heard these terms on Kentucky news stories, but what factors cause criminal charges to become aggravated charges?

What are aggravating factors?

An aggravating factor is any variable that could significantly increase the penalties an individual charged with a crime faces. The most common aggravating factors that Kentucky courts consider include:

  • The accused individual’s intent at the time
  • Whether the individual used a weapon
  • If the incident resulted in a severe injury
  • The age and status of the apparent victim

A wide variety of charges could have greater penalties depending on these factors, including DUI charges, or more commonly, assault charges.

Penalties for assault v. aggravated assault

In Kentucky, the penalties for incidents of assault can vary widely. Simple assault, or assault in the fourth degree, is a misdemeanor offense. However, it can still involve significant fines and even up to a year in jail.

On the other hand, aggravated assault, or assault in the first, second or third degree, is a felony offense. The penalties for aggravated assault generally include:

  • Fines ranging from $1,000 to $10,000
  • Prison time roughly between 10 and 20 years
  • Possible payment of restitution to the victim

Important note: There are also mitigating factors

The significant jump in penalties for aggravating factors is often a concern for many people facing assault charges. However, there are also mitigating factors that can reduce the severity of these penalties. 

For example, there is a Kentucky law that states if individuals can establish they suffered from “extreme emotional disturbance,” at the time of the incident, it could counteract the effect any aggravating factors have on their situation. But these mitigating factors can be difficult to prove.

Individuals facing assault charges, or any other aggravated criminal charges, must understand both the charges against them and their rights. That way, they can determine their legal options to protect their future.