Statistics coming out of California offer a good example of how proportionally high the incidences of assault crimes are when compared to other similar crimes. According to the California Department of Safety, there were 94,432 aggravated assaults in 2012, compared to 1,878 homicides and 7,828 forcible rapes.
Not all assaults are of a serious enough nature to warrant felony investigation, which is why they are categorized as either simple assaults (misdemeanors) or aggravated assaults (felonies).
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Aggravated assault is strictly and clearly defined through specific state laws that often vary slightly from state to state. In general, aggravated assault is determined by assessing the nature of the victim, the intent of the accused, and whether a weapon was present during the attack.
Aggravated Assault Investigations
Aggravated assault is often considered when the attack was against a police officer or other public official. It may also be considered if an individual used a knife, gun, blunt object (brick, rock, hammer, etc.), or similar type of weapon in an attack and the weapon could not only cause serious bodily harm, but potentially kill or disfigure the victim.
Typical examples of aggravated assault include:
- Threatening to kill someone while pointing a gun at them
- Assaulting someone and causing serious physical injury
- Assaulting someone while the perpetrator conceals their identity
- Assaulting an elderly person or developmentally disabled adult
- Assaulting a member of a protected class, such as a healthcare provider or social services worker
In some states, assault with a deadly weapon is considered aggravated assault, while in other states it is a separate, distinct crime and is therefore prosecuted differently than other forms of assault.
Proving the Case of an Aggravated Assault
The work of criminal investigators in an aggravated assault unit includes working with a prosecutor or district attorney to provide, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the elements and nature of the assault made it an aggravated assault.
Aggravated assault criminal investigators may need to gather evidence to provide that the accused intentionally threatened, provoked the attack, caused the victim fear, and/or attempted to accomplish something during the attack. Assault investigators must also uncover any evidence that would prove that the accused committed the assault with the intent to commit another serious crime or whether he concealed his identity or used a deadly weapon in the attack.
Detectives investigating aggravated assaults usually follow a standard protocol: questioning victims and witnesses; investigating the scene of the crime and collecting evidence there; and accompanying the victim to the hospital for a forensic examination.
Assault Police Units
Depending on the size of the police department, aggravated assaults may be organized under one assault unit, or they may be just one facet of a larger assault unit, which may include investigations associated with:
- Sexual assault
- Injury to an elderly or disabled individuals
- Terroristic threats
- Tampering with consumer products
- Taking or attempting to take the service weapon of a police officer
- Forcible rape
- Indecent exposure
- Assaults on minors by adults
- Domestic violence
Therefore, assault investigator jobs may include investigating any number of crimes that fall into the assault category or investigating a specific type of assault.