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Pennsylvania Assault Laws

Overview of Pennsylvania Assault Laws

There are two categories of assault in Pennsylvania: simple assault and aggravated assault. To convict a defendant of simple assault, a prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant intentionally, knowingly or recklessly attempted to cause bodily injury to another person;
  • The defendant negligently caused bodily injury to another person with a deadly weapon;
  • The defendant attempted to use physical menace to intimidate another person with imminent serious bodily injury;
  • The defendant penetrated a law enforcement officer or other official of the jail or correctional system with a hypodermic needle while getting arrested or being searched.

Aggravated assault occurs when the defendant does any of the following:

  • Causes serious bodily injury to another and shows an extreme indifference to human life;
  • Causes, attempts to cause or places the victim in fear of serious bodily injury and the victim is a police officer, firefighter, parole officer, sheriff, deputy sheriff, enforcement agent or correctional officer performing their duties.
  • Attempts to cause or intentionally and knowingly causes serious bodily harm to a member of the teaching community at a school while the victim is working at the school;
  • Uses tear or noxious gas or a stun gun to incapacitate any of the city or state officials listed in (2) above while they are performing their duties.

Defenses to Assault Charges

  • Lack of intent to harm
  • Lack of knowledge
  • No bodily injury occurred
  • Self-defense
  • Provocation
  • Insanity
  • Age
  • Intoxication (NOTE: It cannot be voluntary intoxication, for example, with alcohol or drugs that were voluntarily taken.)

Penalties and Sentences

Simple assault is a second degree misdemeanor unless the offense occurs during a scuffle in which both parties mutually consented to entering. In this case, it is a third degree misdemeanor, carrying a penalty of up to one year in prison. If it is against a child under the age of 12 by an adult over the age of 21, the charge will be a first degree misdemeanor, carrying a penalty of up to five years in prison.

On the other hand, aggravated assault is a felony of either the first or second degree depending on who the offense was committed against. If it is against a police officer or firefighter, it will be a first degree felony. This carries a penalty of up to twenty years in prison. For all else, it will be a second degree felony. A second degree felony carries a sentence of up to ten years in prison.

Also, note that fines may be added to any prison sentence under Pennsylvania state law. These are generally left to the discretion of the trial judges where necessary.

Pennsylvania Assault Statute

Pennsylvania Assault Statute
Pennsylvania Statutes, Title 18, Chapter 27, Sections 2701 - 2702 (Scroll down to sections on simple assault and aggravated assault)

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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