What Is the Difference Between Simple Assault and Aggravated Assault?  

May 19, 2020

Under criminal law, the legal definition of assault varies slightly from state to state, but it generally means that someone made an attempt to intentionally injure another person through physical force or violence. It is an act that directly puts another person in reasonable fear of bodily injury. Simple assault and aggravated assault could be seen when someone receives domestic assault charges. In Pennsylvania, there is a distinction between simple and aggravated assault charges and the punishments they carry.

Intent and Action

To classify an offense as assault under the law, it must be shown that the perpetrator intentionally caused harm to another individual. That does not always mean that the perpetrator set out to harm the victim; if the person acted recklessly in a way that was dangerous to others, it can be considered intent.

A common misconception about assault is that it requires physical contact between the aggressor and the victim, but this is not always the case. Any overt attempt to put another person in fear for their physical safety is enough. However, threats do not generally constitute assault unless they are backed up by some form of physical threat.

Aggravated Assault

In Pennsylvania, assault that results in bodily injury is considered simple assault. The distinction between bodily injury and serious bodily injury is important. Bodily injury is when there are physical impairments or significant pain. Serious bodily injury is more severe and involves the risk of death, permanent disfigurements, and damaged bodily functions. When serious bodily injury occurs, it is considered aggravated assault.

Extenuating circumstances, like the indifference to human life, the use of a weapon that leads to injury, concealment of a hypodermic needle, or assault against a public servant or law enforcement officer, are more likely to bring more serious charges and penalties.

Penalties for Assault in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, simple assault is a second-degree misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. If the offense happened against a child under 12 years old or an adult over 21 years old, it becomes a first-degree misdemeanor with more jail time, and fines of up to $10,000.

Aggravated assault is a felony in Pennsylvania, and it carries more severe penalties, including a 10 to 20 year prison sentence. Aggravating factors will land the perpetrator even more serious penalties. Since every case is unique, you should consult a knowledgeable lawyer to better understand the charges you are facing.

West Chester Criminal Defense Lawyers at the Law Offices of Heather J. Mattes Protect the Rights of Clients Facing Assault Charges

An assault charge is serious and can impact your life in countless ways. Yet, the circumstances surrounding an altercation are not always easy to discern. Our dedicated West Chester criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Heather J. Mattes will review every aspect of your case and provide the best possible defense. Call us at 610-431-7900 or complete our online form to schedule a free case consultation. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we represent clients in Chester County, Bucks County, Delaware County, Lehigh County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County.

Heather Mattes Map