The presence of aggravated assault laws in the legal system of the United States and other nations is intended to give prosecutors the ability to identify cases which are deemed especially egregious in the manner in which they occur and to punish the responsible party accordingly. Either the intended end of an act of assault or the method with which it is accomplished may be used by prosecutors to argue that a case meets the definition of aggravated assault.
The difference between aggravated assault cases and straightforward assault cases, referred to for the purposes of clarification as "simple" assault, is that the former manifests the intention or causes the effect of serious bodily injury. A common way in which this severity may be determined is through the presence of a weapon, such as a firearm, capable of inflicting fatal or serious injuries.
Such bodies as the State of California and the FBI generally conceive of aggravated assault in terms of a deadly weapon. In other areas, such as the United Kingdom and Canada, attacks directed against law enforcement officers, occurring through sexual means, or motivated by bias are provided for under more specific definitions of aggravated assault.
An act of aggravated assault may be pursued by prosecutors as either a felony or a misdemeanor, but every American State has statutes allowing for aggravated assault charges to be pursued as felonies. The kinds of punishments imposed as a result of a felony or misdemeanor conviction for aggravated assault also vary. Less severe cases may be punished with the loss of privileges, such as a driver’s license, but not of basic civil rights. Other requirements that may be imposed are in the form of attendance of anger management classes or providing community services. Serious felony convictions are likely to lead to prison terms.