Defenses Against Aggravated Assault in California

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Have you been charged with aggravated assault in California?

This charge can come as a surprise. After all, people sometimes commit an aggravated assault without even knowing it. If you’re confused about your charge, worried about penalties, and are not sure what to do, keep reading. Here, we give you an inside look at aggravated assault defenses from some of the best criminal defense attorneys in California. 

The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, has defended hundreds of clients against aggravated assault and other criminal charges. We know what legal defenses may get your charge reduced or dismissed, and we’re ready to defend you. Give us a call to discuss your case in a free consultation.

If you would like more information on aggravated assault in California before contacting an attorney, keep reading. 

What Is Aggravated Assault in California?

In California, an assault is “an unlawful attempt, coupled with present ability, to commit a violent injury upon another person” (California Penal Code Section 240). This means that you tried to injure someone, and your actions could have injured someone. If you make physical contact, the charge becomes battery.

An assault charge upgrades to aggravated assault if any of these factors are present (California Penal Code Section 245):

  • Using force likely to cause serious bodily injury,
  • Assault with a deadly weapon,
  • Assault with a firearm, or
  • Assault with an assault weapon.

Aggravated assault often involves some weapon, which increases the severity of potential penalties.

What Are the Penalties for Aggravated Assault?

Aggravated assault can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. However, the prosecutor is likely to try this crime as a felony.

The aggravated assault penalty depends on which weapon you used for the crime.

Assault with a deadly weapon or firearm, or with force likely to cause serious injury, brings these penalties:

  • Up to four years in prison or up to a year in jail, and
  • A fine of up to $10,000.

Assault with a machine gun, assault weapon, or .50 BMG rifle brings up to 12 years in prison.

If you assault the police or firefighters, you face even greater penalties:

  • Assault with a firearm or semiautomatic firearm of a peace officer or firefighter brings up to eight years in prison, and
  • Assault with a machine gun, assault weapon, or .50 BMG rifle of a peace officer or firefighter brings up to twelve years in prison.

If the convicted offender owns the weapon used in the assault, the court will confiscate and dispose of the weapon.

A felony conviction counts as a strike under California’s three-strikes law (California Penal Code Section 667). Your second serious or violent felony doubles the statutory aggravated assault penalty. Your third felony conviction brings a penalty of 25 years to life in prison.

What Defenses Work Regarding Aggravated Assault Charges?

The prosecution must prove that you committed each element of an aggravated assault. This means the prosecution must show that you intended to injure someone with force or a weapon. Your defense attorney attempts to show that at least one element of those charges is not true or is missing.

Here are some defenses you can use against aggravated assault.

No Intent to Harm

You lacked the intent to cause harm. Perhaps you tripped and fell or your accuser misinterpreted your actions.

No Ability to Harm

You lacked the ability to cause serious harm. For instance, if you carried an unloaded gun, it would reduce your ability to cause serious harm.


You committed the assault in order to protect yourself. You have the right to defend yourself, using reasonable force, from someone’s attack.

Defense of Others

You committed the assault in order to protect someone else. You can defend others, using reasonable force, from someone’s attack.

False Accusations

You didn’t commit the crime. You can try to show that your accuser is not telling the truth about the assault.

Do You Need Assistance with Your Aggravated Assault Charge?

A California aggravated assault attorney will help you present an expert defense. Call the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, for a free consultation. We’ll listen to your aggravated assault experience and advise you of your best legal options. 

Our attorneys have defended hundreds of clients against criminal charges like aggravated assault. Our goal is to protect your freedom and restore your reputation by getting this serious charge reduced or dismissed. If you need compassionate, skilled criminal defense, give us a call today.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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