Pennsylvania Assault and Battery Laws

In Pennsylvania, misdemeanor simple assault involves intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly inflicting bodily injury on another, attempting to do so, or putting someone in fear of imminent bodily injury.

In Pennsylvania, misdemeanor simple assault involves intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly inflicting bodily injury on another, attempting to do so, or putting someone in fear of imminent bodily injury.

More serious assaults, known as aggravated assaults, are charged as felonies. If you are looking for information on aggravated assault, see Pennsylvania Aggravated Assault Laws.

Bodily Injury

A “bodily injury” is any physical impairment and includes physical pain. For example, bruises and scratches are bodily injuries.

“Knowingly” means acting with awareness of what one is doing and the consequences of those acts. For instance, if you punch someone in the face and the victim falls down and hits her head, you have acted knowingly. You knew that the victim could fall and hit her head as a consequence of your act, even if you did not intend for that to happen.

Recklessly means acting with deliberate disregard of the risks of one’s acts. For example, speeding down a dark road without your lights on would be reckless. As far as the law is concerned, a person acts recklessly when a reasonable person in his shoes would appreciate the extreme risk involved—even if the actor himself claims not to have realized the risk.

(18 Pa. Con. Stat. § § 302, 2701.)

Deadly Weapon

Negligently causing bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon is also simple assault. A deadly weapon is any weapon that could be used to cause death or serious injury, such as a gun or a knife.

One acts negligently when one should be aware of the risks of one’s acts but goes ahead anyway. The test is whether a reasonable person in the same circumstances would have been aware of the risk. If so, the act is negligent.

(18 Pa. Con. Stat. § § 302, 2701.)

Physical Menace

Putting another in fear of imminent bodily injury with physical menace is simple assault. Physical menace must be an act; it cannot merely be a verbal threat. For example, yelling at a couple that you will kill them, by itself, is not physical menace.

(18 Pa. Con. Stat. § 2701.)

Assault by Hypodermic Needle

Concealing a hypodermic needle on one’s person and then intentionally or knowingly stabbing a correctional officer or mental hospital employee during an arrest or search is also simple assault.

(18 Pa. Con. Stat. § 2701.)

Punishment

In the absence of any circumstances warranting greater or lesser punishment, simple assault is a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for up to two years and a fine of up to $5,000.

Simple assault against a child under the age of 12 by an adult aged 21 or older is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to five years' imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.

Simple assault committed in the course of a fight entered into by mutual consent is a third degree misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment up to one year and a fine of up to $2,500.

(18 Pa. Con. Stat. § § 1101, 1104, 2701.)

Seeking Legal Advice and Representation

Simple assault is a serious crime, and a conviction could result in a significant sentence and fine. If you are facing charges, you should talk with a local criminal defense attorney who has experience defending such charges in your county. The best possible outcome of your case could include a dismissal of charges, a not guilty verdict, or a conviction on reduced charges. An experienced defense attorney can give you a sense of your options, which will vary depending on the judge and prosecutor assigned to your case. A good attorney will be able to tell you how your case is likely to be treated in court and what needs to be done to prepare the best defense.

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