Assault is generally defined as the act of causing physical harm or threatening to cause harm to another. As a violent crime, assault may or may not involve any weapons, but for as long as the other person was subjected to the fear of harm, the law says an assault crime occurred.
Pennsylvania law recognizes two types of assault: simple and aggravated. Depending on which type of charge an offender faces, their crime is either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Per state law, a person commits simple assault if they do any of the following:
- Attempt to cause or intentionally cause bodily injury to another
- Negligently cause bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon
- Attempt to put another person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury through physical menace
If a person uses a hidden hypodermic needle to injure a law enforcement officer or employee of a correctional facility or mental hospital, the law also considers the act as simple assault.
Simple assault is a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable by up to two years of prison and $5,000 in fines.
On the other hand, aggravated assault is a much more serious offense. A person commits aggravated assault if they engage in any of the following violent actions:
- Causing serious bodily injury to another, intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life
- Intentionally causing serious bodily injury to a law enforcement officer, firefighter, parole officer, judge, district attorney, public defender, and similar other public servants while in the performance of their duties
- Knowingly causing bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon
- Causing or attempting to cause bodily injury to a school faculty member
- Causing or attempting to cause bodily injury to a child under 13
Additionally, the law considers the use of noxious gas (such as those employed during riot control) and tasers against law enforcement as aggravated assault.
If a person commits aggravated assault against a public servant or a child under 13 (but older than three), the offense is a first-degree felony. It’s also a first-degree felony to commit assault while manifesting extreme indifference to human life. It’s punishable by up to 20 years of prison and $25,000 in fines.
Any other form of aggravated assault, such as assaulting a child under three or assault with intentional use of a deadly weapon, is a second-degree felony. It’s punishable by up to 10 years of prison and $25,000 in fines.
Understanding the nuances of assault charges in Pennsylvania is the first step toward navigating the legal system. If you are facing charges, consider consulting with a legal professional to get advice tailored to your situation.