The penalties for aggravated assault are typically much greater than they are for simple assault, but the differences between the offenses may not be so easy to identify. However, identifying them in court may result in a third-degree misdemeanor conviction rather than a first-degree felony conviction.
Here are some of the factors a judge will consider.
The level of bodily injury
In general, it is the level of injury that separates misdemeanor and felony convictions. According to Pennsylvania Statutes, bodily injury refers to a physical impairment or substantial pain. If it is “serious” bodily injury, though, then a person may be at risk of permanently losing the function of a body part or organ. Serious bodily injury also includes risk of death or permanent disfigurement.
State statutes say that if both parties joined in the fight willingly, causing intentional bodily harm may be a misdemeanor in the third degree. An incident that is not mutual is likely to result in a more serious assault charge.
For the most part, the intent to harm is critical to a case. However, if a person is acting negligently with a deadly weapon and causes an injury, lack of intent would not keep him or her from receiving at least a misdemeanor conviction. Reckless behavior may also result in a conviction.
The person who sustains the injury
If the person who sustains bodily harm is under 12 years old and the other person is a legal adult, then the offense is a first-degree misdemeanor. Serious bodily injury to a child may be a first- or second-degree felony, depending on whether the child is under age 6, under age 13 or a teenager.
Someone who harms certain professionals, such as teachers, while they are performing work duties may face more serious charges. So, for example, a person who harms a teacher at a school may face more serious charges than someone who harms the same teacher at a bar.
The law also specifically names law enforcement officers, state and local government officials, judges, public defenders, emergency responders, firefighters and others, noting that a charge may rise from a second-degree to a first-degree felony if the injured person is in one of these occupations.