It does not take long for an argument to escalate into violence. Even if you did not start the fight, you might find yourself facing criminal assault charges if you throw the first punch. Before pleading guilty to assault charges, make sure you understand your rights.
Pennsylvania Assault Crimes
Assault crimes in Pennsylvania include simple assault and aggravated assault. The penalties for assault depend on the type of assault, specific victim, defendant's criminal history, and other factors.
Simple assault is generally a misdemeanor. Simple assault includes:
- Intentionally or recklessly causing injury to another;
- Negligently causing bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon;
- Attempting to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury; or
- Intentionally sticking a law enforcement officer or prison employee with a hypodermic needle.
Most cases of simple assault are charged as a 2nd-degree misdemeanor, with penalties including 1 to 2 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. However, if the victim is a child under the age of 12, simple assault is a 1st-degree misdemeanor, with penalties including 2.5 to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Aggravated assault is a more serious criminal charge, and is generally charged as a felony. Aggravated assault involves:
- Attempted or intentionally causing serious bodily injury to another;
- Attempted, intentionally, or recklessly causing serious bodily injury to a police officer or public servant;
- Attempted or intentionally causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon;
- Causing bodily injury to a teacher or school employee; or
- Causing bodily injury to a child under the age of 6.
If assault occurs against certain officers, government employees, and other public servants, it can be considered aggravated assault. This includes:
- Police officers
- District attorneys
- Public defenders
- Parking enforcement officers
Aggravated assault can be charged as a 1st-degree felony or a 2nd-degree felony, depending on the type of assault involved. As a 1st degree felony, a conviction for aggravated assault can result in 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. As a 2nd degree felony, a conviction for aggravated assault can result in 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
Defenses to Assault Charges
It may be a defense to criminal assault charges if the defendant was acting in reasonable self-defense or in the defense of another. Self-defense or defense of another must be reasonable under the circumstances. For example, if someone is about to slap you it may not be considered self-defense if you respond by stabbing the person with a knife.
A conviction for assault can carry serious penalties that may affect your future even after serving your sentence. Before you plead guilty to simple assault or aggravated assault make sure you understand your options and your rights. Criminal defense attorney David J. Cohen is devoted to representing the people of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and surrounding areas. Contact the David J. Cohen Law Firm, LLC today for a consultation.