What is the difference between simple and aggravated assault?

If you are a Pennsylvania resident who has been charged with assault, you may be unclear as to exactly what you are alleged to have done. As FindLaw explains, there are two types of assault in Pennsylvania, simple and aggravated. If you are charged with simple assault, that is a misdemeanor. If you are charged with aggravated assault, however, that is a felony.

At the most basic level, an assault is the attempt to cause harm to someone, whether or not the harm occurs. State laws differ on the precise definition of any type of assault.

Simple assault

To be convicted of simple assault in Pennsylvania, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you did one of the following:

  • You recklessly or intentionally and knowingly attempted to cause your victim bodily harm.
  • You attempted to intimidate your victim with immediate serious bodily harm by means of physical menace.
  • You caused your victim bodily injury by means of a deadly weapon.
  • You stuck a hypodermic needle into a police officer or into a jail or correctional official while they were searching or arresting you.

Aggravated assault

To be convicted of aggravated assault in Pennsylvania, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you did one of the following:

  • You showed extreme indifference to human life by causing someone serious bodily injury.
  • You caused or attempted to cause serious injury to a law enforcement officer, sheriff or deputy sheriff, correctional or parole officer, or other enforcement agent or you put such a person in fear of serious injury.
  • You attempted to cause or knowingly and intentionally did cause serious bodily injury to someone working at a school.
  • You used a stun gun or some form of noxious gas on a city or state official while they were performing their official duties.

This information is provided for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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