Criminal charges for simple assault and aggravated assault carry severe consequences in Pennsylvania. Depending on the seriousness of the case, you may face a lengthy prison sentence, significant fines and court costs and a designation as a violent felon on your permanent criminal record.
An assault conviction can adversely affect your personal reputation and potentially interfere with your right to vote, own a firearm or receive personal or educational loans. It can also affect your ability to advance in your career. Hiring a skilled assault defense lawyer is essential once you are facing a Bucks County or Montgomery PA assault case.
Bucks County Assault Attorney
I have over a decade of experience providing skilled and aggressive representation to individuals facing assault charges in Bucks County, Montgomery County and the surrounding counties. Contact me at (215) 752-5282 for a free initial consultation or fill out the confidential contact form for an immediate response. Appointments are available after business hours and on weekends.
Simple Assault Charges PA
Simple assault is defined under 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 2701 and occurs when a person:
- Attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another; or
- Negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon; or
- Attempts by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury; or
- Conceals or attempts to conceal a hypodermic needle on his or her person and intentionally or knowingly penetrates a law enforcement officer or an officer or employee of a correctional institution, a county jail or prison, a detention facility or a mental hospital during the course of an arrest or any search of the person
What is the Difference between Simple Assault and Aggravated Assault?
An individual may be charged with simple assault or aggravated assault even when the victim does not suffer an injury. In cases where an injury has occurred, the law draws a distinction between bodily injury and serious bodily injury. Simple assault charges generally involve bodily injury or an attempt to cause bodily injury. An example of a bodily injury may include a laceration to a part of the body, a bloody nose or a soft tissue injury.
In contrast, aggravated assault charges generally involve serious bodily injury or an attempt to cause serious bodily injury. An example of a serious bodily injury may include a stab wound, a gunshot wound or a fractured skull. Furthermore, the simple assault statute also requires a lower level of criminal intent on the part of the accused than does the aggravated assault statute. It is not unusual for an individual charged with assault to have to defend against a protection from abuse petition from the same alleged victim of the assault.
PA Simple Assault Penalties
The penalties for simple assault vary depending on an individual’s prior criminal record and the degree of force used during the offense. Penalties may be more severe if the victim suffers serious injuries. The penalties for a conviction for simple assault are as follows:
- 1st degree misdemeanor
- Up to 5 years in jail
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- 2nd degree misdemeanor
- Up to 2 years in jail
- Up to $5,000 in fines
- 3rd degree misdemeanor
- Up to 1 year in jail
- Up to $5,000 in fines
Lifetime Firearms Prohibition
An individual convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” is prohibited from possessing a firearm for life. (18 Pa. C.S.A. § 6105 (c)(9); 18 U.S.C. § 922 9g)(9)).
A misdemeanor crime of domestic violence is defined as:
- An offense that is a misdemeanor under state or federal law: and
- The offense has the element of the use or attempted use of force; and
- The offense was committed by any of the following:
- The current or former spouse, parent or guardian of the victim; or
- A person with whom the victim shares a child; or
- A person who was cohabitating with or had cohabitated with the victim as a spouse, parent or guardian; or
- A person who was or had been similarly situated to a spouse, parent or guardian of the victim
In addition, an individual convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence is required to turn over any firearms, other weapons and ammunition within 24 hours of the conviction for the offense. The firearms, other weapons and ammunition may only be turned over to the Sheriff, other appropriate law enforcement agency or a licensed firearms dealer.
Aggravated assault is defined under 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 2702 and occurs when a person:
- Attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another or causes such injury intentionally, knowingly or recklessly under circumstances that indicate extreme indifference to the value of human life; or
- Attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes serious bodily injury to any officers, agents, employees or other persons identified in the statute or to an employee of an agency, company or other entity engaged in public transportation while in the performance of their duty; or
- Attempts to cause or intentionally or knowingly causes bodily injury to any of the officers, agents, employees or other persons identified in the statute, in the performance of their duty; or
- Attempts to cause or intentionally or knowingly causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon; or
- Attempts to cause or intentionally or knowingly causes bodily injury to a teaching staff member, school board member or other employee, including a student employee, of any elementary or secondary publicly-funded educational institution, any elementary or secondary private school licensed by the Department of Education or any elementary or secondary parochial school while acting in the scope of his or her employment or because of his or her employment relationship to the school; or
- Attempts by physical menace to put any of the officers, agents, employees or other persons identified in the statute, while in the performance of their duty, in fear of imminent serious bodily injury; or
- Uses tear or noxious gas as defined in section 2708 (b) (relating to the use of tear or noxious gas in labor disputes) or uses an electric or electronic incapacitation device against any of the officers, employees or other persons identified in the statute while acting within the scope of their employment; or
- Attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to a child younger than 6 years of age when the offender is 18 years of age or older; or
- Attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes serious bodily injury to a child younger than 6 years of age when the offender is 18 years of age or older
Aggravated Assault Strike Offense
Pennsylvania has instituted a “three strikes” law requiring the imposition of severe mandatory prison sentences for individuals convicted of second and subsequent “crimes of violence.” An aggravated assault conviction involving an attempt to inflict serious bodily injury – or an actual infliction of serious bodily injury – on a person is considered a strike offense under Pennsylvania’s 3 strikes law.
An attempt to inflict bodily injury, or the actual infliction of bodily injury, on a police officer, judge, teacher, parole officer or other individual specified under the statute will also be considered a strike offense. Individuals convicted of a 2nd strike offense will face a mandatory 10-year prison sentence. Individuals convicted of a 3rd or subsequent strike offense are subject to a mandatory term of 25 years in prison or a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Penalties for Aggravated Assault
The penalties for aggravated assault vary depending on an individual’s prior criminal record, the victim’s status (e.g., law enforcement officer, teacher or government employee), the level of force involved in the offense and the extent of the victim’s injuries. The prosecutor has the discretion to apply a deadly weapon sentencing enhancement to certain aggravated assault offenses. The imposition of a deadly weapon sentencing enhancement will result in a significant increase in the length of incarceration the accused will face if he or she is convicted. The penalties for a conviction for aggravated assault are as follows:
- 1st degree felony
- Up to 20 years in state prison
- Up to $25,000 in fines
- 2nd degree felony
- Up to 10 years in state prison
- Up to $25,000 in fines
Defending Against Assault Charges
I will thoroughly review the facts and circumstances of the case to prepare the strongest possible defense against the charges. Often, assault charges are filed based solely on the accuser’s testimony, without corroborating evidence. Building an aggressive defense to the charges at the earliest possible stage in the case is critical to a successful outcome. Therefore, it is important to contact me as soon as you are under investigation or when you are formally charged with an assault crime.
Comprehensive Defense Investigation
In certain cases, I will employ a independent private investigator to acquire evidence establishing a defense to the assault charges. Independent defense investigators are highly skilled at obtaining testimonial and documentary evidence. Examples of such evidence may include photographs, phone records, computer records, hospital records, surveillance videos, social media communications and witness statements. My professional network includes forensic experts in many fields who are highly experienced in challenging the evidence presented by the prosecutor during the trial.
Pennsylvania Law of Self Defense
Self-defense is one of the most commonly used defenses against the charges of simple assault and aggravated assault in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania law allows an individual to use force against another person when that individual believes that such force is immediately necessary to protect himself or herself from the unlawful use of force by the other person. Moreover, once the accused presents evidence of self defense before a judge or jury, the burden shifts to the prosecutor to disprove such a defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
Justification Defense in Assault Cases
Self-defense is often referred to as “justification” and is a complete defense to simple assault and aggravated assault charges. For example, using force against another person is justified under Pennsylvania law if that force was used in a lawful act of self-defense. Self-defense can often be established through the testimony of the accused, testimony of witnesses, inconsistencies in the victim’s statements, video surveillance or the presence or absence of injuries to the victim or the accused. I have extensive experience successfully defending individuals facing assault charges by establishing that the accused was legally acting in self-defense.
Other Common Defenses to Assault Charges
- Defense of others
- Defense of property
- False accusation
- Lack of injury to the alleged victim
- No intent to harm
- Mistaken identification
- Testimony of character witnesses
Recklessly Endangering Another Person
Under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2705, a person commits the crime of recklessly endangering another person if he or she recklessly engages in conduct that places or may place another person in danger of death or serious bodily injury. In Pennsylvania, a reckless endangerment charge can be filed as a single count in a criminal complaint; however, it is most often charged in connection with an aggravated assault case, a simple assault case, a case involving child endangerment, or a driving under the influence case that involves an accident.
The Definition of Reckless under Pennsylvania Law
Under the statute, an action is considered reckless if the individual who committed it consciously disregarded a known risk. To gain a conviction for reckless endangerment, the prosecutor is not required to establish actual injury. The prosecutor must prove only that the accused recklessly created a situation that placed a person or persons in danger of death or serious bodily injury. It is often difficult for the prosecutor to meet the legal standard for recklessness required for a conviction. I can determine whether the actions alleged in your case fit within the legal definition for recklessness.
Reckless Endangerment Defenses
- Failure to prove the act was reckless
- Failure to prove the act placed others in danger of death or serious bodily injury
- Lack of credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses
- Mistaken identity
- Self-defense or defense of others
Penalties for Recklessly Endangering Another Person
- 2nd degree misdemeanor
- Up to 2 years in jail
- Up to $5,000 in fines
Harassment is defined under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2709. A person commits the crime of harassment when, with the intent to harass, annoy or alarm another, he or she:
- Strikes, shoves, kicks or otherwise subjects the other person to physical contact, or attempts or threatens to do the same; or
- Follows the other person in or about a public place or places; or
- Engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts that serve no legitimate purpose; or
- Communicates to or about such other person any lewd, lascivious, threatening or obscene words, language, drawings or caricatures; or
- Communicates repeatedly in an anonymous manner; or
- Communicates repeatedly at extremely inconvenient hours; or
- Communicates repeatedly in a manner not specified in the statute
The Definition of Course of Conduct and Communication
Under the harassment statute, “course of conduct” generally refers to a continuing pattern of conduct over a period of time, however short that may be. The law defines the term “communicates” very broadly. It includes verbal statements, written statements, telephone calls, text messages, and communications through social media and other internet platforms. I can determine if the allegations in your case fall under the legal definition for criminal harassment under Pennsylvania law.
Cyber-Harassment of a Child
Pennsylvania’s child cyber-harassment law is found in 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 2709(a.1). The cyber-harassment law was enacted to address certain types of conduct directed towards children through the internet or other electronic methods of communication. The law makes it illegal to intentionally harass, annoy or alarm a child regarding his or her physical characteristics, sexuality, sexual activity, mental health or physical health through electronic means or social media. The communication can occur through telephone, text message, e-mail or social media platforms.
Defending Against Harassment Charges
The Pennsylvania harassment statute addresses specific types of behavior conducted with the intent to annoy, alarm or harass another person. The Pennsylvania harassment statute distinguishes between harassment involving physical contact or an attempt to cause physical contact and harassment involving behaviors more commonly associated with stalking.
The police often file physical harassment charges as a lesser offense in simple assault and aggravated assault cases. In certain cases, harassment charges involving physical contact can be successfully defended by establishing self-defense, defense of others, insufficient evidence or mistaken identity. I can determine the most effective defense based on the facts of your case.
Challenging the Prosecution’s Evidence
The police can also file harassment charges if they believe an individual has communicated threats to another person, placed phone calls at inconvenient hours or followed another person in public without a legitimate purpose. In certain cases, it may be possible to establish, through investigation, that the accused was not responsible for the communications alleged by the victim. In other cases, it may be possible to establish that the alleged communications never took place or that the communications occurred under completely lawful and legitimate circumstances. A review by a forensic computer expert may be necessary if the communications involve social media, a computer, cell-phones or other electronic devices.
Penalties for Harassment
- 3rd degree misdemeanor (communicates in an obscene or threatening manner, anonymously or repeatedly at inconvenient hours or cyber-harassment of a child)
- Up to 1 year in jail
- Up to $5,000 in fines
- Summary offense (minor physical conduct, following another or course of conduct)
- Up to 90 days in jail
- Up to $300 in fines
The grading of the harassment charge involving minor physical conduct, following another or course of conduct will be enhanced 1 degree if the accused has previously violated a Protection from Abuse Order involving the same victim, family or household member.
Prosecutors pursue stalking charges very aggressively in Pennsylvania. This policy is due in part to the potential for stalking behavior to escalate into more serious criminal conduct. Stalking behavior can include any of the following:
- Following someone without a legitimate purpose
- Sending unwanted e-mail, text or social media messages
- Damaging a person’s home or vehicle
- Communicating threats to a person’s family members or friends
- Showing up at a person’s home or workplace without a legitimate purpose
- Photographing or videotaping a person without that person’s knowledge
Definition of Stalking
Under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2709.1, a person commits the crime of stalking when he or she either:
- Engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts against another person, including following the person without proper authority, under circumstances that demonstrate either an intent to place that person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or to cause substantial emotional distress to that person; or
- Engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly communicates to another person under circumstances that demonstrate or communicate either an intent to place that person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or to cause substantial emotional distress to that person
Penalties for Stalking
- 3rd degree felony (2nd or subsequent offense or 1st offense and the person has a previous conviction for crime of violence or violation of a protection order involving the same victim, family or household member)
- Up to 7 years in jail
- Up to $15,000 in fines
- 1st degree misdemeanor (1st offense)
- Up to 5 years in state prison
- Up to $10,000 in fines
Defending Against Stalking Charges
To gain a conviction, the prosecution must prove all the elements of the crime of stalking beyond a reasonable doubt. Investigation of the circumstances surrounding the charges may reveal weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. In some cases, it may be possible to establish that the accuser made up the allegations for revenge or to gain leverage in a family court proceeding.
In other cases, it may be possible to prove that the accused was not, in fact, following an individual but was instead legitimately and lawfully traveling to or from work or school. An alibi defense can often be used to establish that the accused was not physically present at the time and place of the stalking incident. Another common defense to stalking charges can be established by demonstrating that the accused was mistakenly identified. I will comprehensively review the facts and evidence in your case to develop the strongest defense to the charges.
Dedicated and Trusted Defense Against Assault Charges
Simple assault, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, harassment and stalking are all serious offenses that can lead to lengthy prison sentences, fines and other harsh consequences. I am highly knowledgeable in all areas of Pennsylvania’s assault laws and defenses. I will protect your rights by thoroughly examining all of the evidence in your case and vigorously defending you against the charges.
Start with a Strong Defense
If you have been charged with assault or any assault-related offenses in Bucks County, Montgomery County or the surrounding counties, it is critical to act quickly to protect your rights and build the strongest possible defense against the charges. Phone lines are open 24 hours a day at (215) 752-5282. Call today for a free initial consultation or fill out the confidential contact form for an immediate response.