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Assault is considered a violent crime in Pennsylvania, and it is punished accordingly.
Listed below is the basic information about assault charges throughout the state and what someone faced with this charge can do about their situation.
1. There are two types of assault: Simple and Aggravated
A) Simple Assault
Simple assault is attempting or actually causing harm to a person. It also includes negligently causing bodily injury to another person with a deadly weapon, making a person afraid that they will be physically harmed, or hiding a needle with the intention to penetrate a government agent or other public servant.
B) Aggravated Assault
Aggravated assault is causing serious bodily injury to another person or attempting to do so, or assaulting someone with a deadly weapon. Aggravated assault charges also include assaulting some public officials, such as police officers, teachers and jail employees.
2. Assault is a “general intent” crime
General intent is a legal term which means that a person does not need to intend a specific outcome of an action. Simply doing the actions necessary to commit the crime or attempting to do so is enough.
Regarding assault, this means that a person can be found guilty of assault even if they did not mean to cause the victim any injury.
An example of the way general intent works with assault charges is if someone was walking down a sidewalk, and a driver threw a rock out of their window at the pedestrian. The rock hits the pedestrian and causes harm to him. After being arrested, if the driver admits to throwing the rock but insists that he personally knew the pedestrian and he was only trying to startle him, not hit him, he would nonetheless be found guilty of assault.
Because the driver had the “general intent” to throw the rock at the pedestrian, it does not matter whether he intended to hit him with the rock or only throw the rock in his path.
3. Assault can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony
Depending on how badly the victim was injured, whether there were weapons involved, whether the victim was a public employee, and the age of the victim, assault can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Simple assault is a misdemeanor charge. The lowest simple assault charge happens when two people get into a consensual right. This situation is a misdemeanor in the third degree, which results in up to one year of imprisonment.
A simple assault charge is increased to a misdemeanor of the first degree if an adult over 21 years old assaults a child under 12 years old. A misdemeanor of the first degree is punishable by up to 5 years’ imprisonment.
Most other simple assault charges are classified as a misdemeanor in the second degree, which is punishable by up to 2 years’ imprisonment.
Aggravated assault is a felony charge. If the assault does not result in serious bodily injury, it is a felony in the second degree, punishable by up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
If serious bodily injury occurs or if it is attempted, then the charge is increased to a first degree felony, punishable by up to twenty years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
It is important to note that actions against public officials are heavily prosecuted. While punching a civilian would result in a charge of simple assault, punching a police officer would result in a charge for aggravated assault.
4. There are many defenses available for assault charges
Assault is a very serious crime, but just because someone is charged with it, it doesn’t mean that they have no options available. Experienced attorneys have several tools available to defend individuals charged with assault.
For example, an attorney can review the evidence to see if the victim may have mistaken the attacker’s identity. They can also determine whether the victim was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, which may impair the victim’s ability to remember what happened or properly identify the attacker.
If the victim knows the person charged with assault, then an attorney can investigate the relationship and other factors to determine if the victim may have fabricated the story for financial or personal gain or to get back at the person charged.
For a free legal consultation, call 215-515-3360
Another defense available for an assault charge is self-defense. Pennsylvania recognizes self-defense as an “affirmative defense,” meaning that if it is proven that the individual charged with assault was only trying to defend themselves, the charges will could be dropped or the case will result in a verdict of not guilty.
Contact The Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC Today
Assault charges can damage a person’s chances to gain employment in certain fields, and they can affect custody rights, probation and parole, and one’s freedom.
If you or a loved one have been accused of simple or aggravated assault in Pennsylvania, call our offices today at 215-515-3360 for a free consultation.