Crimes of Violence in Pennsylvania

Simple Assault

The following information is to provide you with an understanding of Pennsylvania's simple assault law and the general issues surrounding a Pennsylvania simple assault offense. 

Pennsylvania Simple Assault Law

The law in Pennsylvania concerning simple assault statute is located at 18 Pa.C.S. § 2701 and provides:

(a) Offense defined.--A person is guilty of assault if he:

(1) attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another;

(2) negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon;

(3) attempts by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury; or

(4) conceals or attempts to conceal a hypodermic needle on his person and intentionally or knowingly penetrates a law enforcement officer or an officer or an employee of a correctional institution, county jail or prison, detention facility or mental hospital during the course of an arrest or any search of the person.

Understanding the PA Simple Assault Law

Definitions under the PA simple assault law:

Criminal attempt - a person commits an attempt when, with intent to commit a specific crime, he does any act which constitutes a substantial step toward the commission of that crime (18 Pa.C.S. § 901)

Bodily injury – impairment of a physical condition or substantial pain

Reckless or wanton conduct – a specific intent to injure is not a necessary element of assault if the defendant’s conduct was wanton and reckless such as reckless driving.  A Pennsylvania court held that where a hunter handled a gun in a manner which demonstrated reckless disregard for safety of others who were in immediate vicinity, and by doing so injured another, was guilty of assault.

Simple assault may include choking, pinning victim to the ground, knocking victim to the ground, grabbing and shoving, slapping, or pointing a knife or gun at another person.

Fear of imminent serious bodily injury – pointing a gun at another can constitute simple assault.  Actions of man in forcing woman to ground and repeatedly pushing her back to the ground when she attempted to get up while the other man went through her coat pockets clearly put woman in “fear of imminent serious bodily injury”, thus arising to the level of simple assault.

Serious bodily injury – bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ (18 Pa.C.S. 2301)

Merger and Lesser Included Offenses

Offenses such as terroristic threats, harassment, endangering the welfare of children, rape, and robbery do not merge with a simple assault charge.

Simple assault does merge into aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person since the elements of simple assault are necessarily included in the other offenses.

Grading of a Simple Assault in Pennsylvania

Simple assault is a PA misdemeanor of the second degree unless committed in a fight or scuffle entered into by mutual consent, in which case it is a misdemeanor of the third degree; or against a child under 12 years of age by an adult 21 years of age or older, in which case it is a misdemeanor of the first degree.

Fines and Penalties for Conviction of Simple Assault in Pennsylvania

Imprisonment:

A person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor may be sentenced to imprisonment for a definite term which shall be fixed by the court and shall not be more than:

5 years for misdemeanor of the first degree

2 years for misdemeanor of the second degree

1 year for misdemeanor of the third degree

Restitution:

Available when the victim suffered personal injury.  This is in the discretion of the trial court and the Judge can (and will) consider the extent of the injury (and any potential injuries that might have been caused).

If you have been accused of simple assault in Pennsylvania, the Law Office of Kevin Mark Wray can help you.  I represent those charged with simple assault in Delaware County, Chester County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County.  If you or a loved one has been arrested or received a criminal complaint charging simple assault, do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Kevin Mark Wray to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your case. 

Law Office of Kevin Mark Wray
200 West Front Street
Media, PA 19063

(610) 800-5487 (mobile)
(610) 810-2999 (office)
(610) 566-1002 (fax)

This web posting is for general information and does not contain a full legal analysis of the matters presented.  It should not be construed as legal advice or relied upon as legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances.  The invitation to contact Kevin M. Wray, Esquire is not a solicitation to provide professional services and should not be construed as an availability to perform legal services in any jurisdiction in which Kevin Wray is not licensed to practice.

Aggravated Assault - the basics

Arrest rates ranged from 21.9 aggravated assaults per 100,000 population in Elk County to 334.2 in Philadelphia County. Fourteen counties reported rates above the statewide rate of 127.3.

In Pennsylvania, assault is a crime that can be a misdemeanor or a felony.  A person commits an assault when he inflicts (or attempts to inflict) a physical injury on another person. 

Aggravated Assault includes inflicting serious bodily injury on another (or attempting to do so), assaulting someone with a deadly weapon, and assaults against certain protected public officials or employees.  The sections below explain these elements of aggravated assault in detail. 

For information on simple (misdemeanor) assault, see the entry above. 

Causing Serious Bodily Injury 

Aggravated assault is intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing serious bodily injury to another (or attempting to do so), under circumstances that show an extreme indifference to human life. 

Knowing or intentional acts 

To prove that a person committed an aggravated assault, the prosecutor must convince the jury that the defendant acted in one of the following ways:

  • Knowingly. People act knowingly when they are aware of the consequences of their acts, or
  • Recklessly. People act recklessly when they consciously disregard the dire consequences of their acts. A person can be deemed to have acted recklessly when a reasonable person in the same situation would have been aware of the risks associated with the conduct.

Serious bodily injury

Serious bodily injury causes serious permanent loss, impairment of bodily function, or permanent disfigurement; or creates a substantial risk of death. Anytime your actions are likely to cause death or serious injury, you are showing an extreme indifference to human life.

(18 Pa. Con. Stat. §§ 302, 2301, 2702.)

Deadly Weapon

A deadly weapon is one that could cause death or serious injury.  Guns and knives are deadly weapons, but other items can qualify, too.  For example, a baseball bat or beer bottle can be a deadly weapon if it is used to seriously hurt someone.

(18 Pa. Con. Stat. §§ 2301, 2702.)

Public Officials and Employees

Pennsylvania elevates assaults against certain public officials and employees from simple assaults to aggravated assaults, in the following situations.

  • intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing serious bodily injury (or attempting to do so) while the victim was performing public duties or working
  • intentionally or knowingly causing mere bodily injury (or attempting to do so) while the victim was performing public duties or working
  • attempting to put a public official or employee in fear of imminent harm by way of physical menace, and
  • using gas or an electric incapacitation device (such as a TASER) against a public official or employee.

Public officials and employees who are entitled to protection under Pennsylvania’s aggravated assault law include:

  • teachers, school board members, and school employees, whether the school is public or private
  • police officers, law enforcement officers, and sheriffs
  • correctional officers and parole officers
  • private detectives
  • firefighters and emergency medical services employees
  • judges, district attorneys, attorneys general, and public defenders
  • employees of the Department of Environmental Protection
  • employees of county children’s service agencies
  • public utility employees, and
  • state officials and legislators.

(18 Pa. Con. Stat. § 2702.)

Punishment\Aggravated assault that does not involve serious bodily injury is a second degree felony, punishable by up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

If the defendant causes serious bodily injury or attempts to cause serious bodily injury, aggravated assault is a first degree felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to $25,000.

(18 Pa. Con. Stat. §§ 1101, 1103, 2702.)

Aggravated assault is a very serious crime.  Conviction could result in the imposition of a lengthy prison sentence and a very large fine.  The consequences of these charges can vary widely based on the facts of your case, and the attitudes of the judge and prosecutor assigned to your case.  

An experienced criminal defense attorney will be familiar with the local judges and prosecutors and can tell you how they are likely to treat your case.  A good attorney can set out your options and help you prepare the best defense so that you can achieve the best possible outcome, which could be dismissal of the charges, an acquittal, or the avoidance of a lengthy sentence.

If you have been accused of aggravated assault in Pennsylvania, the Law Office of Kevin Mark Wray can help you.  I represent those charged with aggravated assault in Delaware County, Chester County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County.  If you or a loved one has been arrested or received a criminal complaint charging aggravated assault, do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Kevin Mark Wray to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your case. 

Law Office of Kevin Mark Wray
200 West Front Street
Media, PA 19063

(610) 800-5487 (mobile)
(610) 810-2999 (office)
(610) 566-1002 (fax)

This web posting is for general information and does not contain a full legal analysis of the matters presented.  It should not be construed as legal advice or relied upon as legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances.  The invitation to contact Kevin M. Wray, Esquire is not a solicitation to provide professional services and should not be construed as an availability to perform legal services in any jurisdiction in which Kevin Wray is not licensed to practice.

Aggravated Assault - Defenses

There are two types of aggravated assault charges in Pennsylvania Courts.  

Though there are exceptions, causing or attempting to cause serious bodily injury to another person, or causing such injury recklessly under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to the value of human life is the most serious type of aggravated assault and is graded as a felony of the first degree.  The law also tries to protect certain classes (i.e. police officers acting in the performance of their duty) by making it an aggravated assault to try to cause mere bodily injury to them, rather than the aforementioned “serious bodily injury.”  This type of aggravated assault is graded as felony of the second degree.  

In other words, if you throw a punch at a civilian, you can only be charged with simple assault, which is a misdemeanor.  However, if you throw the same punch at a uniformed police officer, you will be charged with aggravated assault.

So how does an experienced attorney defend against a charge of assault?  In cases where injuries are alleged to have been suffered, the defense starts by subpoenaing the medical/hospital records for the alleged victim, and examining them in several ways:

  • Do the injuries corroborate the alleged victim’s version of events?  If the victim says he/she was hit with a bat, do the medical records show injuries that could have been caused by a bat?  Or do they show injuries more likely caused by a fist?
  • Do the medical records show that the victim promptly sought medical attention?  Often people who later claim to have suffered “serious” injuries do not seek treatment immediately.  Sometimes this is because they are lying about how the injury occurred, or they know that they are responsible for their injuries, not another person.  Other times they delay because they want to have time to get drugs or alcohol out of their system.  Still other times they delay because they simply were not as badly hurt as they later claim to be.
  • Do the medical records show that the alleged victim was intoxicated?  Evidence of drugs or alcohol in the alleged victim can help in two ways—it can help to show that the victim was the initial aggressor (see self-defense below), and it can also cast doubt on the victim’s ability to reliably observe the incident and their ability to recall the incident about which they will later try to testify.

If the alleged victim is a stranger, an experienced attorney must explore issues of wrong identification. Being assaulted is a traumatic event, and a victim’s ability to observe the face of the alleged attacker is limited at best in many cases.  Assaults involving people who do not know each other personally suggest the possibility that an innocent mistake has been made.  In other words, a well-intentioned victim mistakenly believes that person A assaulted him/her, when in fact person B committed the crime.

If the alleged victim and the accused know each other, the defense of fabrication must be explored.  Key to any successful defense of fabrication is the alleged victim’s motive to lie. People lie for financial gain, they lie to get back at an ex.  They lie to gain tactical advantage in ongoing custody or divorce proceedings, they lie to get back at friends or loved ones of the accused.  They also lie to get people locked up because they know a defendant is on probation or parole, and is thus likely to be incarcerated while awaiting trial.  Sometimes they do this without any intention of ever coming to court to testify, knowing it will take several months before the case is dismissed.

Self-defense, also called “justification” in Pennsylvania, is an affirmative defense. This means that a person asserting self-defense in an assault case must present some evidence in support of their claim at trial. If the judge feels that some evidence of self-defense was presented, then the district attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person did not act in self-defense. If the district attorney disproves that the person charged with Simple Assault or Aggravated Assault acted in self-defense, then the judge or jury most likely will convict the person. However, if the district attorney fails to present sufficient evidence to disprove the self-defense claim, then the person charged with assault must be found not guilty.

If you have been accused of aggravated assault in Pennsylvania, the Law Office of Kevin Mark Wray can help you.  I represent those charged with aggravated assault in Delaware County, Chester County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County.  If you or a loved one has been arrested or received a criminal complaint charging any crime of violence, do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Kevin Mark Wray to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your case.

Law Office of Kevin Mark Wray
200 West Front Street
Media, PA 19063

(610) 800-5487 (mobile)
(610) 810-2999 (office)
(610) 566-1002 (fax)

This web posting is for general information and does not contain a full legal analysis of the matters presented.  It should not be construed as legal advice or relied upon as legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances.  The invitation to contact Kevin M. Wray, Esquire is not a solicitation to provide professional services and should not be construed as an availability to perform legal services in any jurisdiction in which Kevin Wray is not licensed to practice.

Terroristic Threats

In Pennsylvania, the charge of Terroristic Threats, in violation of 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2706, prohibits a person from communicating a threat to commit a crime of violence with the intent to terrorize another.  The communication of the threat can be direct, such as a verbal threat to kill someone, or it can be indirect and non-verbal such as pointing a gun at a person's head.  In either situation, there is sufficient evidence to show that the person communicated a threat with the intent to terrorize.  Communications can also be made in person, by written or electronic means, including telephone, electronic mail, Internet, facsimile, telex and similar transmissions.

 

If you have been accused of terroristic threats in Pennsylvania, the Law Office of Kevin Mark Wray can help you.  I represent those charged with terroristic threats in Delaware County, Chester County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County.  If you or a loved one has been arrested or received a criminal complaint charging any crime of violence, do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Kevin Mark Wray to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your case.

Law Office of Kevin Mark Wray
200 West Front Street
Media, PA 19063

(610) 800-5487 (mobile)
(610) 810-2999 (office)
(610) 566-1002 (fax)

This web posting is for general information and does not contain a full legal analysis of the matters presented.  It should not be construed as legal advice or relied upon as legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances.  The invitation to contact Kevin M. Wray, Esquire is not a solicitation to provide professional services and should not be construed as an availability to perform legal services in any jurisdiction in which Kevin Wray is not licensed to practice.

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Mark Ray | Reply 01.08.2017 03.19

i was accused of this crime and did not touch the individual who is from another country and clearly there was a language barrier I said shut up only to him

stacy | Reply 24.07.2016 02.56

i made a threat to a women who was calling after i lost my23yr old Daughter.

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