The consequences of a physical altercation in Pennsylvania extend far beyond just a possible black eye or broken nose. Assault is considered a serious offense in the state and, if charged and convicted, people may face serious and long-term penalties as a result of their scuffles or fights. Therefore, it is important that those who have been involved in such situations understand the assault charges in the state.
There are two classes of assault charges in the state of Pennsylvania – simple assault and aggravated assault. According to Title 18, Chapter 27 of the Pennsylvania Criminal Code, a person may be charged with simple assault if as a result of his or her intentional, knowing or reckless actions cause bodily injury to another person. Situations in which someone causes injury as a result of the negligent use of a deadly weapon, uses physical means to make another person fear imminent and serious physical harm, or intentionally or knowingly sticks a law enforcement officer with a hypodermic needle while being searched or arrested are also classified as simple assault.
Aggravated assault occurs when, with extreme indifference to human life, someone causes serious bodily injury to another person. Additionally, people may be charged with aggravated assault if they attempt to cause or cause law enforcement officers, first responders or correctional facility employees to fear serious injury, as well as if they use stun guns, noxious gas or tear gas to incapacitate these officials while they are performing their job duties. It is also considered aggravated assault if people intentionally and knowingly attempt to cause or cause serious injury to members of the teaching community while on school grounds.
According to FindLaw, simple assault may be classified as a first-, second- or third-degree misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances. If convicted of this offense, people may face between one and five years in prison. Aggravated assault is considered a second-degree felony and carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. If, however, someone commits aggravated assault against law enforcement or first responders, he or she may be charged with a first-degree felony. This offense is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.