In Pennsylvania, an assault can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony crime. You can be charged with an assault if you attempt to cause or actually cause physical injuries to another person. Simple assault is a misdemeanor. However, you can be charged with a felony or aggravated assault offense if you attempt to cause or actually cause serious bodily injuries to someone else. Certain circumstances can also elevate a simple assault to an aggravated assault, including when you use a deadly weapon during an assault or when you assault certain public employees or officials who are protected under the law. To be convicted of this offense, you must have acted recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally and have demonstrated extreme indifference to whether the victim might die or suffer severe injuries.
What is aggravated assault?
An assault occurs when someone knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly causes or attempts to cause someone else to suffer bodily injuries or to intentionally place someone else in fear that they will imminently suffer bodily injuries.
Under 18 Pa.CS § 2702, you can be charged with aggravated assault when you attempt to cause or actually cause someone else to suffer serious bodily injuries. A serious bodily injury is defined as an injury that has a high risk of death or that causes permanent impairment or disfigurement.
If your actions during an assault could potentially result in the victim’s death or serious injuries, this indicates an extreme indifference to the victim’s life. Aggravated assault charges include malice as a component, which refers to recklessness in spite of the potential consequences or cruelty.
You can also be charged with aggravated assault if you have a deadly weapon when you assault someone even if you did not actually use the weapon. While you might think of a firearm when you think of a deadly weapon, any instrument that could cause serious injury or death is a deadly weapon.
Some examples of objects that could be considered deadly weapons and elevate a simple assault charge to an aggravated assault offense include the following:
- Broken bottle
- Baseball bat
- Brass knuckles
- Tire iron
Any object that could be used as a deadly weapon can qualify. For example, if you get into an argument on a golf course and assault another golfer, you could be charged with an aggravated assault if you wielded a nine-iron during the incident.
A simple assault can also be elevated to an aggravated assault if the victim is on the list of protected public servants, including firefighters, police officers, teachers, sheriff’s deputies, state or federal law enforcement officers, judges, and others.
What is intentionally, recklessly, or knowingly?
To be convicted of an aggravated assault, you must have acted intentionally, recklessly, or knowingly. Knowingly committing an offense means that you must have known the potential consequences of your conduct. Recklessly committing an offense means that you consciously disregarded the potential consequences. Intentionally committing an aggravated assault means that you intended to harm the victim.
What are the penalties for an aggravated assault conviction?
If the victim did not actually suffer serious bodily injuries or the victim was a public servant other than a law enforcement officer, an aggravated assault conviction is a second-degree felony. This can result in a prison sentence of a maximum of 10 years and a fine of a maximum of $25,000.
If the victim was seriously injured or was a police officer, a conviction for aggravated assault is a first-degree felony. This can result in a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a maximum fine of $25,000.
Having an aggravated assault conviction on your criminal record can also cause other problems in your life after you complete your sentence. People with felony records struggle to find jobs or gain approval for housing. An aggravated assault conviction will also make you appear to be unstable, making potential employers and landlords hesitate to hire you or lease an apartment to you.
What are the defenses to aggravated assault?
Your criminal defense attorney in West Chester, PA at DiCindio Law will carefully analyze the circumstances of your case to help identify potential defenses to your charges. Your defense lawyer will always strive to hold the prosecutor to his or her burden to prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
Some of the potential defenses might include the following:
- You acted in self-defense.
- You acted in defense of someone else who was being attacked by the alleged victim.
- You did not intend to cause serious bodily injury or fear.
- You reacted to a perceived threat.
- You did not possess a deadly weapon.
Your attorney will also look for holes in the prosecutor’s case by challenging the prosecutor’s evidence and cross-examining the witnesses called by the prosecution. If the prosecutor cannot meet the burden of proof for any element of the offense, you cannot be found guilty of an aggravated assault. Your attorney might also secure a reduction of your charge from a felony to a misdemeanor when the prosecutor’s evidence appears weak.
Why it is important to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney in West Chester, PA
An aggravated assault is a serious charge in Pennsylvania that carries severe penalties. This type of violent crimes charge should prompt you to retain an experienced defense lawyer as soon as you have been charged. If you try to represent yourself, you will have a much greater risk of being convicted and sent to prison for a long time. An attorney at DiCindio Law can fight for your rights and work to protect your freedom. We always work to secure the most favorable outcomes for our clients under the facts and circumstances of their cases.
Get help from a criminal defense attorney near me
If you are facing an aggravated assault charge, you could face a decade or more in prison and a permanently altered life. Retaining an experienced attorney at DiCindio Law can increase your chances of receiving a reduced charge or sentence or potentially the dismissal of the charges against you. Contact us today to request a consultation at (610) 430-3535.