How is assault defined by Pennsylvania law? Keep reading, and you’ll learn what constitutes assault and how assault crimes are penalized in this state. You’ll also learn what to do if you are charged with assault and when you should contact a Lemoyne criminal defense attorney.
Basically, assault is what happens when someone physically hurts, tries to physically hurt, or plausibly threatens to physically hurt someone else. Even pointing a toy gun – if the other person thinks that it’s real – or shaking a fist at someone in a menacing manner can constitute an assault.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT ASSAULT CHARGES IN PENNSYLVANIA?
There are several possible assault charges under Pennsylvania law, but every assault charge is treated seriously by Pennsylvania’s criminal courts. Simple assault can be charged as a third-degree, second-degree, or first-degree misdemeanor.
Aggravated assault may be charged as a first-degree felony or as a second-degree felony in this state. If you are accused of either crime, you’ll need sound, personalized legal advice and aggressive legal representation.
WHAT CONSTITUTES SIMPLE ASSAULT IN PENNSYLVANIA?
What does it take to convict someone of simple assault? A prosecutor must prove that at least one of these acts was committed by a defendant who allegedly:
1. negligently caused bodily injury to someone else by using a weapon
2. tried to intimidate someone else by threatening serious bodily injury
3. used a hypodermic needle on a police officer or other official during a search or arrest
4. knowingly, recklessly, or intentionally tried to cause bodily injury to another person
HOW ARE SIMPLE ASSAULT CONVICTIONS PENALIZED?
Simple assault is usually charged as a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable upon conviction with up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
If both parties mutually consented to a physical scuffle, the charge is a third-degree misdemeanor, and the penalty is up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Simple assault by an adult (21 or over) against a child (under age 12) is charged as a first-degree misdemeanor, and a conviction can send the offender to prison for up to five years.
WHAT CONSTITUTES AGGRAVATED ASSAULT?
What does it take to convict someone of aggravated assault? A Pennsylvania prosecutor must prove that a defendant committed at least one of these acts:
1. caused serious bodily injury to another person while showing indifference to human life
2. caused, attempted to cause, or placed in fear of serious bodily injury a law enforcement officer, correctional officer, parole officer, or firefighter performing his or her duties
3. used a stun gun, tear gas, or noxious gas to incapacitate a law enforcement officer, correctional officer, parole officer, or firefighter performing his or her duties
4. knowingly and intentionally caused or attempted to cause serious bodily harm to a teacher at a school while that teacher was working
Negligently causing bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon is usually considered simple assault, but intentionally charging at someone with a knife, discharging a firearm at someone, or even ordering an aggressive dog to attack someone could all be instances of aggravated assault.
Whether an assault was unintentional and negligent or intentional and malicious can make the difference between a misdemeanor charge and an even more serious felony charge.
HOW ARE AGGRAVATED ASSAULT CONVICTIONS PENALIZED?
Aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer or a firefighter is a first-degree felony that may be penalized upon conviction with a prison term of up to twenty years and a fine of up to $25,000.
All other aggravated assaults in Pennsylvania are second-degree felonies. A conviction may be penalized with a prison term of up to ten years and a fine of up to $25,000.
ARE THERE OTHER PENALTIES FOR ASSAULT CONVICTIONS?
These are only the penalties that are imposed by criminal courts, but an assault conviction can have serious consequences beyond the criminal penalties. When bodily injury occurs, the civil courts may also become involved.
An assault victim may bring a personal injury lawsuit and seek damages from the defendant for medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering, and other injury-related damages. If a defendant is convicted of assault, that conviction will be powerful evidence in a civil personal injury trial.
If you are a professional in Pennsylvania, an assault conviction may trigger a disciplinary action by your professional licensing board. And if you are an immigrant in this state, any conviction for a crime of violence could lead to a deportation proceeding.
WHAT DETERMINES THE EXACT CHARGE IN AN ASSAULT CASE?
When someone is arrested for assault in Pennsylvania, the exact charge will depend on:
1. the type of weapon if a weapon was involved
2. the injuries and the extent of the injuries (if anyone was injured)
3. whether the victim is someone like a police officer or a firefighter in a protected category
4. whether the assault happened by negligence or by intention
WHAT DEFENSES ARE OFFERED AGAINST ASSAULT CHARGES?
If you are charged with assault in Pennsylvania, depending on the details of the incident, a Lemoyne criminal defense attorney may offer one of these defenses on your behalf:
1. No assault happened, and the story has been fabricated.
2. Another person committed the assault, and you have been misidentified.
3. You were acting in self-defense, and you are not guilty of a crime.
If you are accused of assault, and you believe that you are not guilty for any of these three reasons, you must put the right criminal defense attorney to work on your behalf. Do not presume that you will be convicted.
YOU MUST EXERCISE YOUR RIGHTS
If you are taken into custody by the police for an assault charge, politely but firmly exercise your right to remain silent. Insist on having your attorney present for any questioning. Do not attempt to act as your own attorney – an assault charge is too serious, and too much will be at stake.
Instead, have a Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer review the details of the assault charge, discuss your options, explain your rights, and aggressively fight for the justice you need and deserve.
Usually, your defense lawyer’s first step is seeking to have the charge dropped by the prosecutor or dismissed by the judge. If that’s not possible, insist on your right to a jury trial. Your lawyer may suggest a plea deal, but only if the case against you is powerful and a conviction is certain.
You can only be convicted of assault if the state can prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The right defense attorney knows how to cast doubt on the evidence against you and how to bring your case to its best possible outcome.