General or Specific Intent
Normally, no specific intent is necessary to get convicted for assault. This is because assault is a cause and result crime. The offender’s criminal intent is apparent from the way he acted during the crime. A conviction of criminal assault is usually made by proving that the defendant voluntarily made offensive physical contact. The intent at the moment of action, however, distinguishes two different types of assault: simple assault and aggravated assault.
Any assault qualifies as simple assault, unless it is aggravated assault. It consists of offensive contact with another person’s body. The offender need not have intended any specific harm, only voluntarily made offensive contact. In New York (NY), a simple assault will probably result in charges for Assault in the Third Degree which is a class A misdemeanor.
Simple assault becomes aggravated assault when the offender had criminal intent or carried a dangerous weapon at the time of the crime. Usually, it occurs when an offender initializes contact in order to commit another type of harm such as murder or rape. If of course the offender successfully kills or rapes the other person they would be charged with murder or rape. Assault in these situations is an attack on another person with intent to commit rape, robbery or murder. Usually, a person committing an assault of this magnitude will find themselves facing charges for assault in the first or second degree.
If any dangerous weapon is present at the time of the assault then the charges become much more serious and will likely result in first degree assault charges. What is considered a dangerous weapon varies from state to state and may depend on judges decision. It usually refers to deadly or lethal weapons. Ordinarily, a handgun, a knife over four inches long, a sword, a blackjack, brass knuckles or any other common instrument of violence would be considered a dangerous weapon.
In addition, assault can become more serious depending upon state of the victim and the extent of the injuries that are inflicted. If the victim is a police officer or a child, then it is likely to result in very serious charges for an assault. In New York (NY) this is called an aggravated assault and can be a class B felony.