In Pennsylvania, there are two categories of assault. The first is known as simple assault, while the more serious offense is referred to as aggravated assault. Although both offenses are considered serious crimes, aggravated assault is punished much more harshly, making it especially important for those who have been charged with assault to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who may be able to get their charges reduced or even dismissed.
A person can be convicted of simple assault if he or she:
- Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caused (or attempted to cause) bodily injury to someone else;
- Negligently caused bodily injury to another person with a deadly weapon;
- Attempted to use physical menace to intimidate another person with imminent serious bodily injury; or
- Concealed a hypodermic needle on his or her person and intentionally penetrated a law enforcement officer with it during the course of an arrest or search.
Simple assault is a second degree misdemeanor and is punishable by up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine. However, a simple assault charge will be upgraded to a first degree misdemeanor, which carries the threat of a five year prison sentence, if it is committed against a child who is under the age of 12 years old and the defendant is 18 years of age or older.
In the event that the assault took place during a fight or scuffle that was entered into by mutual consent, an offense can be downgraded to a third degree misdemeanor.
The other category of assault is known as aggravated assault and occurs when a person:
- Causes serious bodily injury to another and in so doing, shows an extreme indifference to human life;
- Causes, attempts to cause, or places a firefighter, police officer, parole officer, sheriff, deputy sheriff, enforcement agent, or correctional officer in fear of serious bodily injury;
- Attempts to cause or intentionally causes serious bodily harm to a member of the teaching community at a school; or
- Uses tear gas or a stun gun to incapacitate a city or state official.
Being charged with an aggravated assault is much more serious than a charge of simple assault because it is considered a felony offense. The severity of the punishment, however, depends on the identity of the alleged victim. For instance, an assault against a police officer will be charged as a first degree felony, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. An aggravated assault against anyone else can be charged as a second degree felony.
There are a number of defenses available to those accused of either simple assault or aggravated assault, including that:
- The defendant did not intend to cause harm;
- No bodily injury occurred;
- The defendant was acting in self-defense;
- The defendant was provoked;
- The defendant was drugged or the victim of involuntary intoxication; and
- The defendant suffered from a mental disorder.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you live in Pennsylvania and were charged with assault, please contact van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim at (215) 486-0123 to schedule a consultation with an experienced and dedicated Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer. We are eager to help you today.