Aggravated Assault - Prison Time Required?

Posted by Megan GroutMar 21, 20240 Comments

Prison for Aggravated Assault
Aggravated Assault and Prison Time

Aggravated Assault Charges: Do I Have To Go To Prison?

     I have so many aggravated assault cases where this is the first question my clients ask me. I am always ready to reassure them that we have lots of options that don't include prison. The short answer is there is NO automatic requirement in Georgia that people go to prison for aggravated assault. So, I thought I would do a blog post just on this issue alone to help everyone charged with aggravated assault feel better. Let me explain the options you may have. 

     Under Georgia law, most aggravated assault cases carry a penalty of 1 to 20 years. (not all, there are harsher sentencing ranges for special cases.) However, aggravated assault is not a crime where prison time is required. (There are some crimes in Georgia where prison time is required - armed robbery being one of them.) So that "1 to 20"  for aggravated assault means a sentence can be all probation, custody combined with probation, or all custody time. Let's look at the different sentencing outcomes.

Could Be Dismissed or Reduced To A Misdemeanor For Assault

     The first thing to consider is the facts of your case. What do the facts say about whether you may be found guilty by a jury? If the facts are weak, it is possible that the case may not proceed at all as an aggravated assault. At best, the case is so weak that the prosecutor either agrees to dismiss it entirely or possibly these cases can be reduced to simple assault, which is only a misdemeanor and cannot result in prison time. The maximum allowed under the law in Georgia for simple assault is only 12 months in a county jail and a $1,000 fine. Misdemeanor cases rarely include substantial jail time. They are usually served primarily on probation. 

Could Be Dismissed Through Diversion

     Even if the facts of your case do demonstrate a likelihood that a jury would find you guilty of aggravated assault, you still have plenty of options that do not include prison time. Depending on the circumstances, you may be eligible for a diversion program that could end up with your case being dismissed. I have had several clients successfully complete diversion programs with aggravated assault charges. This is something you should talk with your lawyer about, because diversion programs differ by county and depend on the facts of your case and your criminal history.

Could Be A Straight Probation Sentence

     If your case does not result in a dismissal by the prosecutor, a reduction in charges, or a diversion program, you and your lawyer will be weighing your options about doing a plea or going to trial. Obviously, if you go to trial and are found not guilty, you will not have to worry about an aggravated assault sentence. But let's say you either agree to some kind of plea or the jury finds you guilty. If that happens, it is entirely possible that a judge can sentence you to straight probation. That means you do not have to spend any future time in custody.  The judge has the power to sentence you up to 20 years on probation but I rarely see probation sentences that long for aggravated assault cases. And even if you do get a long probation sentence, there is always the possibility down the road that you can ask for an early termination of your probation. I have a blog post on early termination of probation that you can read HERE

Could Be A Sentence of Custody Plus Probation

     In more serious cases of aggravated assault, a prosecutor and/or judge may want you to serve some time in custody. But even then, that doesn't necessarily mean you are going to prison. First, if you have served some time in a county jail for this charge prior to your sentence, that time should count toward whatever custody sentence they are seeking. I have been successful in getting prosecutors and judges to agree to accept the few weeks or months that someone has already spent in a county jail as enough custody time for a sentence. In those cases, no prison time is ever actually served and the balance of the sentence is served on probation. You see, even though the sentencing range is 1 to 20 years, it doesn't mean the minimum "1" has to be custody. If the prosecutor and judge is agreeable, you could get credit for merely days/weeks/months of prior custody time and just serve the balance on probation. It will depend largely on the facts of your case and your criminal history.  

Could Be A Prison Sentence

     Yes, of course there is always the possibility that you could go to prison for aggravated assault. If your criminal history or the facts of the case are particularly bad, prison time is on the table. However, even then, it does not mean it has to be a lengthy prison sentence. First, you get credit for any time you have already served in the county jail prior to sentencing. Second, you will likely be parole eligible. Let's say you were given a "10 do 1" sentence for aggravated assault alone. (I say alone because I'm not talking about scenarios where there are other more severe charges as well.) This means a 10 year sentence, with the first year in custody and the balance of the 10 on probation. If you already spent 10 months in the county jail before your sentence, I have seen counties just keep you in the jail for the last two months of your sentence instead of sending you to prison. It isn't something you can count on happening, but it does happen. Also, you may be eligible for parole very quickly. Parole for aggravated assault depends on many factors, including whether there a weapon or injury involved in your case. No one can predict exactly when someone will parole, but your lawyer can explain the process to you. 

     So the take away from the blog post for you should be that there are lots of different paths that an aggravated assault case can take. I know that aggravated assault charges can be scary and stressful. Start by calling an experienced lawyer - they may make you feel much better and reduce your stress level. Feel free to call me if you have charges for aggravated assault pending in Cobb County.  

     Lastly, I have written a couple of other blog posts about aggravated assault if you want to learn more about your charges and how a victim's position on the case may affect your future. 

For Frequently Asked Questions About Aggravated Assault in 2024, click HERE.

For More Questions About Aggravated Assault, click HERE.