Simple assault is a common criminal charge filed in Pennsylvania. You can be charged with simple assault in several different situations. If you are charged with this offense, you should talk to a criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law to learn about the options you might have.
What is simple assault?
Simple assault is defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2701.
Under this statute, you can be charged with simple assault if you do one of the following things:
- You intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause or attempt to cause bodily injury to another person.
- You negligently injure someone else with a deadly weapon.
- You try to physically intimidate someone to cause him or her to fear that you will cause imminent bodily injury.
- You conceal a hypodermic needle on your person and intentionally or knowingly cause a corrections officer, police officer, or mental institution employee to be penetrated with the needle.
Penalties for simple assault
Simple assault is a second-degree misdemeanor in most situations. However, if you are charged with simple assault after getting into a physical fight with someone else by mutual consent, it is a third-degree misdemeanor. Finally, if you are 18 or older and commit a simple assault on a child ages 12 or under, it is a first-degree misdemeanor.
A conviction of second-degree misdemeanor simple assault can result in up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. A conviction of third-degree misdemeanor simple assault can result in up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Finally, a conviction of first-degree misdemeanor simple assault can result in a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Elements of simple assault
The prosecutor has the burden of proving each of the elements of simple assault beyond a reasonable doubt before you can be convicted. He or she will need to prove your required mental state and the fact that the victim either had a real fear of being imminently seriously injured or was injured. For simple assault, you can be convicted if you intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caused or attempted to cause bodily injury. It is important to note that you can be convicted even if you attempted to harm someone else but were not successful. For example, if you swung at someone else and missed him or her, that could still be charged as a simple assault.
The threat must also have been imminent. For example, if you threaten to cause physical injury to a victim at some distant point in the future, that will not be enough to be charged with simple assault. Similarly, if the victim did not hear you make a threat that you did not follow through with, you also would be unlikely to be charged with simple assault.
Defending against simple assault
Several defenses might be available against simple assault charges, depending on what happened in your case.
Some of the potential defenses you might raise include the following:
- Self-defense/Defense of others
- Defense of property
- False identification
- Lack of a required element
Self-defense and defense of others are commonly asserted affirmative defenses in simple assault cases. You can raise one of these defenses if you acted to prevent the alleged victim from trying to harm you or someone else when your reaction was reasonable and proportionate.
You might also defend against a simple assault case by arguing that you acted to defend your property. However, it is typically more difficult to assert this defense than it might be to assert that you acted in self-defense.
If the assault involved a stranger, the police might have used an eyewitness identification procedure to charge you. If that occurred, your attorney might carefully review the lineup procedure to determine whether it was flawed. Mistaken identification cases might involve challenging the identification procedure used through an evidentiary motion.
If you accidentally injured someone without intending to do so, you might be able to defend against a simple assault charge. For example, if you tripped over a rock and fell into someone else, you could likely argue that you did not intentionally, recklessly, or knowingly cause or attempt to cause injury.
If the victim consented to what you did, you might also be able to argue that you are not guilty of simple assault or that you should only be charged with third-degree misdemeanor assault instead of second-degree misdemeanor assault. For example, if you struck the alleged victim during an MMA tournament, you should not be charged with assaulting him or her. Similarly, if you mutually agreed to a bar fight, you should only face third-degree misdemeanor charges instead of second-degree misdemeanor charges.
Finally, if the prosecutor cannot prove one of the elements of simple assault, your attorney might secure a dismissal of the charges against you.
Simple assault vs. aggravated assault
Aggravated assault is found in and is a more serious offense than simple assault. Aggravated assault can be charged as a first-degree or second-degree felony, depending on the specific actions and the victim. The aggravated assault might be charged if you cause or attempt to cause serious bodily injury to someone else, if you use a deadly weapon during an assault, or if you assault someone with a specific type of job, including a police officer, corrections officer, teacher, another school employee, and etc. If you are convicted of second-degree felony aggravated assault, you can face a prison sentence of five to 10 years and a fine of up to $25,000. If you are convicted of first-degree felony aggravated assault, you can face a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years and a fine of up to $25,000.
Contact a criminal defense attorney
Even though you might consider a simple assault charge to be relatively minor, you should still treat it seriously. A conviction could result in a lengthy jail sentence and stiff fines. Call DiCindio Law today at (610) 430-3535 for help.