Pennsylvania law distinguishes between simple and aggravated assault. The latter can result in felony charges while simple assault is a misdemeanor offense.
Review the factors that separate these offenses when facing a court date for assault charges.
Pennsylvania can prosecute an offender for simple assault if he or she injured someone else recklessly, knowingly or purposefully. This charge also applies to accidental injury caused by a firearm or weapon and to cases involving needle-stick to an officer or correctional employee during a search or arrest.
An offender does not have to actually cause harm to receive a simple assault conviction. The state may also prosecute for these charges when someone threatened or intimidated someone else with a serious injury.
Simple assault carries up to two years in prison as a second-degree misdemeanor. The court may downgrade charges if the injury resulted from a mutual fight between the plaintiff and the defendant. First-degree misdemeanor charges can result from simple assault between an adult and a child younger than 12. A convicted person can receive up to five years in prison for this offense.
The state can apply felony aggravated assault charges in cases involving indifference to the victim’s life. An offender can also receive these charges for injuring or threatening to injure a law enforcement officer, correctional officer, firefighter, police officer or teacher on duty, or for incapacitating any of these individuals with a stun gun or tear gas.
Pennsylvania considers most aggravated assaults second-degree felonies. This conviction carries up to 10 years in prison. However, aggravated assault against a firefighter or police officer is a first-degree felony and carries up to 20 years in prison.