Facing assault or battery charges in Pennsylvania is intimidating. In addition to contacting a defense attorney, you may wish to know the difference between the types of charges, so you understand your defense plan.
What Is Considered Assault in PA?
In Pennsylvania, a person is considered to have committed assault if they try to harm or actually harm another person. Importantly, assault does not have to involve physical contact. It can include any action that makes another person or persons fear for their safety, so even words or uttered threats can be considered assault.
Under Pennsylvania law, intent is important when determining whether an assault has taken place. If someone intends to frighten a person or group of people by uttering threats or by making threats and taking actions that make someone fear for their safety, they may be charged with assault.
Simple Assault vs. Aggravated Assault vs. Battery
Simple assault is the broadest definition of assault in Pennsylvania. While aggravated assault must include specific elements, simple assault refers to any threat or harm that involves attempts to cause an injury or that do cause injury. Any type of assault that does not reach the level of aggravated assault is a simple assault. Anything from a simple shoving match to even uttered threats can lead to assault charges.
Most often a second-degree misdemeanor, simple assault can mean up to two years in prison and up to $5000 in fines. The penalties may be higher in cases where the injured or threatened person is a young child under 12 years of age. In those cases, an individual can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor and may face up to five years in prison. Assault can even occur if two people willingly engage in a fight. In these cases, a third-degree misdemeanor charge can be expected.
Aggravated assault is a more serious charge. A person can be charged with aggravated assault if they use non-lethal weapons or cause serious injury. Aggravated assault can also be the charge if someone is accused of assault against nurses, law enforcement personnel, emergency medical technicians, teachers, firefighters, judges or district attorneys. Even if an individual is not violent, if any of these factors are present, they can be charged with aggravated assault, which can mean felony charges and sentences of up to 20 years in prison.
Battery involves threatening physical contact, even if the contact is non-violent. To be charged with battery, the accused must initiate non-consensual contact. Battery is charged alongside assault under Pennsylvania law is not charged as a separate offense. Just like assault, battery in Pennsylvania can be both simple or aggravated, depending on the severity of the harm.
Get Legal Counsel
If you have been charged with assault or battery, contact a criminal defense attorney in Pennsylvania by contacting MPL Law for a consultation. You can also reach our offices by calling 717-845-1524. Our experienced attorneys have more than 30 years of experience and offer personalized attention to your case.
Even if you have been turned away by other law firms or are not sure whether an attorney can help, contact us to discuss your assault and battery defense. A defense attorney can work to ensure you are not charged for a more serious offense than necessary and can develop a customized defense strategy based on the circumstances of your case.