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Aggravate in the legal sense means intensification. It refers to “any circumstance attending the commission of a crime or tort which increases its guilt or enormity or adds to its injurious consequences and which is above and beyond the essential constituents of the crime or tort itself.’’ Some feature defined by law enhances the crime, as the intention of the criminal or the special vulnerability of the victim. In short, a crime or tort is aggravated if the circumstances make it worse or more serious than it would otherwise be. Most states have laws differentiating offences on the ground of gravity. For example, assault and aggravated assault. Assault may become "aggravated assault" if the defendant uses a deadly weapon to cause serious bodily injury. Generally the punishments for aggravated offenses are more severe.
Example of a state statute on Assault and aggravated assault.
NY CLS Penal § 120.08. Assault on a peace officer, police officer, fireman or emergency medical services professional
A person is guilty of assault on a peace officer, police officer, fireman or emergency medical services professional when, with intent to prevent a peace officer, police officer, a fireman, including a fireman acting as a paramedic or emergency medical technician administering first aid in the course of performance of duty as such fireman, or an emergency medical service paramedic or emergency medical service technician, from performing a lawful duty, he causes serious physical injury to such peace officer, police officer, fireman, paramedic or technician.
Assault on a peace officer, police officer, fireman or emergency medical services professional is a class C felony.
NY CLS Penal § 120.11. Aggravated assault upon a police officer or a peace officer
A person is guilty of aggravated assault upon a police officer or a peace officer when, with intent to cause serious physical injury to a person whom he knows or reasonably should know to be a police officer or a peace officer engaged in the course of performing his official duties, he causes such injury by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.
Aggravated assault upon a police officer or a peace officer is a class B felony.