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Understanding Assault in Pennsylvania
Most individuals consider assault to be an act of physical violence between two individuals, but assault can actual include more. It is important to understand what assault involves, as well as what the person’s rights are if arrested for simple or aggravated assault.
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What is Considered Assault in Pennsylvania?
Many times, assault does not even involve actual physical contact. Assault occurs whenever a person threatens to harm another person or other people or makes an attempt to hurt them.
Assault depends largely on that person’s intent. Intent can be derived from that person’s actions or words. Assault can also involve a verbal or physical threat, accompanied by some action that makes another person reasonably fear that he or she is not safe.
Assault charges are serious criminal charges and fall into two categories: simple assault and aggravated assault.
Severity of the Assault
The severity of the assault also depends on other circumstances. Most times, an assault in Pennsylvania is a second-degree misdemeanor. If the person tries to hurt children younger than 12-years-old, he or she will be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. If people willingly engaged in a fight with each other (mutual fighting), the charges will likely be a third-degree misdemeanor.
What Is Simple Assault?
A simple assault could also involve an act that was not intentionally violent in nature. If someone is a heated discussion with someone else, and he or she gestures in a way that makes the other person feel as if he or she is threatened, that could be considered assault, even if it was not necessarily that person’s intention to make the other person feel that way. This is considered a reckless simple assault.
All that matters is the “threatened” person reasonably believes that the threat of harm will be carried out.
What Is Aggravated Assault?
An aggravated assault is considered a felony in Pennsylvania and can result in up to 20 years of prison time.
An aggravated assault requires that the person committing the assault must have intended to inflict violence or serious bodily injury on another person. Under the statute, aggravated assault is an attempt to cause serious bodily injury or injury with extreme indifference to human life. Even an attempted assault without injury can be considered an aggravated assault, but the action must be considered severe and egregious.
If a weapon is involved, a simple assault charge will almost always be increased to an aggravated assault.
Does the Victim Need to Be Injured?
For an assault charge to be successful, the victim does not need to actually be injured. All that matters is the threat of and the intent to cause injury.
Attempts to cause injury that were not successful can be considered assault. Therefore, if the aggressor swings at the victim but misses, an assault can still apply.
Simple Assault Penalties
A simple assault can range from a first- to third-degree misdemeanor. For a third-degree misdemeanor, the individual could face a maximum of one year incarcerate and a $2,500 fine. A second-degree misdemeanor can result in two years maximum of jail time with a $5,000 fine. A first-degree misdemeanor carries a five-year maximum jail sentence with a $10,000 fine.
Assault with a Deadly Weapon
If a deadly weapon is involved in an assault, the crime will normally become aggravated assault. However, the crime could also fall under simple assault where bodily injury is caused, depending on the circumstances.
The sentencing guidelines are increased when the assault involved a deadly weapon. The likely minimum sentence that the accused could be facing is one to two years more than if a deadly weapon was not involved. A deadly weapon is defined as any device capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.
If the person picked up an object, like a bat, where he or she did not intend to cause physical harm but still did so, it could be a simple assault with bodily injury. However, nine times out of ten, the crime normally is escalated to aggravated assault.
What items would be considered deadly weapons can be a very broad category. The most obvious ones would be something like a gun or knife, but a deadly weapon can be anything that can lead to death if used in a violent manner, like a baseball bat or rock. Also hitting someone with a vehicle can be considered a deadly weapon.
The victim does not need to be hurt physically for the assault with deadly weapon to apply. If someone shot a gun but missed, they will still charge the individual with attempted aggravated assault since the intent is still there.
For simple assault with a deadly weapon, the key is for there to be a reckless action with a deadly weapon. Aggravated assault requires that intent but also extreme indifference to human life, meaning the person does not care about the injuries that could be inflicted.
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