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Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyers > Blog > Assault > Does Assault Require an Actual Injury to the Victim?

Does Assault Require an Actual Injury to the Victim?


In Georgia, the crime of simple assault occurs when someone “attempts to commit a violent injury” to another person or commits any act that “places another in reasonable apprehension of immediately receiving a violent injury.” Simple assault is legally distinguishable from aggravated assault, which is an assault committed with an “object, device, or instrument” which is “likely to or actually does result in bodily injury” when used in an offensive manner.

Jury Convicts Georgia Defendant for Setting Notebook on Fire, Placing It On Girlfriend’s Leg

A key consideration with respect to aggravated assault is that the prosecution is not required to prove the victim actually suffered an injury. As the statutory language makes clear, it is enough to show that the defendant’s assault was “likely to” cause some form of bodily injury. A jury can therefore still convict a defendant even when their actions caused no physical or emotional harm to the victim.

A recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Fraga v. State, provides a useful illustration. In this case, a jury convicted the defendant of a variety of charges related to family violence. The defendant met the victim in April 2020. They started dating. A few weeks into the relationship, the defendant moved in with the victim and her children.

Of relevance here, the defendant and the victim were fighting in their bedroom one night. At one point, the defendant lit a notebook on fire and placed it on the victim’s right leg. The victim’s clothing briefly caught fire, but she managed to put it out before suffering any physical injury. The victim later testified she was not even scared by the defendant’s actions as she had “become desensitized” to his abuse by that point in their relationship.

The state charged the defendant with aggravated assault for this notebook incident. As previously mentioned, the jury found the defendant guilty on this and several other charges. On appeal, the defendant argued there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict for aggravated assault “because [the victim] was not scared or physically injured.”

The Court of Appeals rejected this argument and upheld the defendant’s aggravated assault conviction. The appellate court noted the jury only had to find the defendant acted with intent to cause the victim serious injury. That he did not succeed was irrelevant.

That said, the Court of Appeals did reverse a separate conviction for “cruelty to children in the third degree.” Prosecutors alleged the defendant committed the aggravated assault in the presence of the victim’s daughter. But the daughter testified she entered the bedroom after the incident with the notebook occurred. The appellate court agreed with the defense that it did not meet the burden of proof for cruelty to children, which required the child to witness the act itself.

Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today

Aggravated assault is a serious felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison under Georgia law. So if you are charged with this or a similar crime, you will need competent legal advice from a skilled Atlanta assault lawyer. Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.



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