A question I am asked often is,
“What Is the Difference Between Simple Assault and Aggravated Assault
In Pennsylvania, assault is one of the most frequently charged crimes.
When most people hear the term “assault,” they think of fist
fights between two people, or possibly incidents of
domestic violence involving married people, couples dating, or family members. While these
are all examples of assaults, legally “assault” encompasses
a much wider spectrum of interactions between people. The consequences
of a conviction for an assault offense vary as widely as the possible
types of offense: penalties can range from probation to up to forty years in jail.
Simple Assault in Philadelphia
Perhaps the most commonly charged assault crime is simple assault.
Simple assault is defined in Pennsylvania when bodily injury is:
- attempted or caused intentionally or recklessly;
- caused due to negligence with a deadly weapon;
- alluded to by physical menace and the victim feels fear of imminent injury; or,
- attempted or by concealing a hypodermic needle on one’s person and
penetrating a law enforcement officer or employee during the course of
an arrest or any search of the person.
Simple assault is usually graded as a misdemeanor of the second degree
which carries a possible sentence of up to two years in prison and a fine
of up to $5000. If a simple assault is committed by someone who is twenty-one
or older and the victim is twelve or younger, the crime becomes a misdemeanor
of the first degree. This can result in a sentence of up to five years
in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. A mutual fight between two people,
however, is a misdemeanor of the third degree which carries a maximum
penalty of up to one year in prison, and a fine of no more than $5000.
Aggravated Assault Charges
Aggravated assault is a much more serious form of assault.
Aggravated assault usually involves assaults with weapons, assaults on police, and incidents
where people cause (or merely attempt to cause) “serious bodily
injury.” If a person is found guilty of causing bodily injury to
another person with a deadly weapon, the assault will likely be graded
as an aggravated assault which is a felony of the second degree. Such
a conviction carries a possible maximum sentence of up to ten years in
jail and a fine of up to $25,000.
For example, if a person cuts someone on the arm with a knife, this would
likely be charged as an aggravated assault and a felony of the second
degree. Now, if a person stabbed someone in the chest, or was attempting
to cause serious bodily injury but only managed to stab a victim in the
arm or hand, the alleged attacker would still be charged with the crime
of aggravated assault, however, it would be graded as a felony of the
first degree. First degree felonies carry a possible sentence of up to
20 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
The term serious bodily injury is an important term used in the definition
of aggravated assault. It has a very complex definition which has been
defined by statute and refined by case law and court decisions. An important
point about the charge of aggravated assault is that a person charged
does not have to actually cause serious bodily injury to be charged with
the most serious form of the crime. The fact that the person just had
the mindset to cause serious bodily injury is enough to be found guilty
– and sentences for such a case can be substantial.
Penalties for Aggravated Assault
A conviction for aggravated assault committed with a gun automatically
results in a mandatory
minimum sentence of five to ten years in state prison. Even if no weapon is involved
and no serious bodily injury is caused, a conviction for aggravated assault
can result in a mandatory state prison prison sentence if the victim is a
under 17 years old, or over
60 years old. A second conviction for aggravated assault graded as a first degree felony
mandatory minimum sentence of ten to twenty years in prison; a third conviction carries a mandatory
minimum sentence of 25 to 50 years imprisonment or life imprisonment if
the judge sees fit. This is known as Pennsylvania’s Three Strikes Law.
Call today to schedule a
free consultation with our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys.