In Pennsylvania, assault describes a myriad of related offenses — from simple assault to aggravated assault, to reckless endangerment, and more. Though simple assault is typically prosecuted as a second-degree misdemeanor offense, the consequences of conviction can be rather significant. The charge must be taken extremely seriously if you are to avoid the imposition of criminal liability and the life-altering consequences thereof.
Basics of Simple Assault
In many other states, assault and battery are split into two separate offenses — assault is used to describe the threat of harm, whereas battery is used to describe the actual physical contact or harm caused (i.e., the “completion” of the assault, though assault is not a necessary condition to battery).
Pennsylvania has simplified the issue considerably.
Simple assault folds in traditional assault “and” battery elements. Thus, whether you have actually caused physical harm to the victim or just threatened them menacingly, you may be held liable for simple assault.
Simple assault in Pennsylvania can be broken down into three separate, but related scenarios.
- intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury (or attempting to do so);
- negligently causing bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon; or
- attempting (by physical menace) to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
For example, suppose that you are equipped with a handgun (a deadly weapon) when you get into an altercation with the victim outside of a bar.
In Scenario A, you do not hold the handgun or point it at the victim — it remains hidden. The handgun safety is off, however, and in the altercation, it discharges, causing bodily injury to the victim. Given the circumstances, it’s unlikely that the court would find that you intentionally or recklessly caused harm with the handgun. It would qualify as simple assault.
In Scenario, B, however, you point the handgun at the victim when it accidentally discharges, causing bodily harm. Because you aimed the gun at the victim, the court is likely to find that it was reckless behavior, and thus you would be charged with the more severe offense of aggravated assault, not simple assault.
Sentencing for Simple Assault in Pennsylvania
Simple assault is generally prosecuted as a second-degree misdemeanor offense, absent certain exceptions. Second-degree misdemeanors in Pennsylvania carry penalties of up to two years imprisonment and $5,000 in fines.
There are two exceptions worth noting.
First, in situations where the assault occurred during a fight or scuffle in which consent was granted by the involved parties (i.e., a voluntary fight between two arguing friends), the state will charge the simple assault defendant with a third-degree misdemeanor. Third-degree misdemeanors carry penalties of up to one year imprisonment and $2,000 in fines.
Second, in situations where the victim is under the age of 12 and the defendant is 18 years or older, the state will charge the simple assault defendant with a first-degree misdemeanor. First-degree misdemeanors carry penalties of up to five years imprisonment and $10,000 in fines.
Regardless of the particular circumstances of the assault at issue, conviction can have significant consequences for both your personal life and career goals.
Consult an Experienced Pittsburgh Simple Assault Defense Lawyer for Assistance
Here at McKinney Law, we have over a decade of experience handling a range of disputes on behalf of criminal defendants, including those who have been charged with simple assault and other violent offenses.
We are passionate advocates for our clients, and unlike many other criminal defense firms, we are willing and able to take a case to trial to secure a favorable result. We have no trouble battling with prosecutors in court, and as such, we have developed a reputation as aggressive litigators who can effectively navigate the challenges of a criminal trial. This reputation has served us well over the years, and has given us a significant advantage when it comes to negotiating favorable plea deals with prosecutors.
If you are facing simple assault charges, we encourage you to contact an experienced Pittsburgh simple assault defense lawyer at our firm for a free, confidential, and no-obligation consultation.
Call (412) 520-3301 or submit an online message to connect to McKinney Law today. We provide after-hours scheduling opportunities, and will get back to you regarding your inquiries within 24 hours of contact.