What's the Difference Between Simple and Aggravated Assault?

What's the Difference Between Simple and Aggravated Assault?

Simple assault is a misdemeanor, but a conviction can still land someone in jail. Aggravated assault is a felony, but actual physical harm doesn’t have to occur. The consequences and definitions of these two types of assault aren’t always reflected in their names.

The main distinction between simple and aggravated assault is the severity of the injury or intended injury. Assault can be charged without a punch being landed. Acting in a threatening manner can be enough for an assault charge.

Any felony charge has life-changing ramifications. At Scaringi Law, we believe a strong criminal defense begins with a strong offense. Call (717) 775-7195 right away so we can start tailoring your defense strategy.

Simple Assault Definition

Simple assault in Pennsylvania is a misdemeanor charge.

Someone can be charged with simple assault in any of the following situations:

  • They intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause (or attempt to cause) bodily injury to another
  • They negligently cause bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon
  • They threaten imminent serious bodily injury creating fear in another person
  • They conceal or attempt to conceal a hypodermic needle and intentionally jab the needle into a law enforcement officer during an arrest or any search of the person (also charged if the needle is used against an officer or an employee of a correctional institution, county jail or prison, detention facility, or mental hospital)

Holding someone down, grabbing their arm, or shoving them can be considered simple assault.

Pennsylvania law divides simple assault into three grades. Most simple assault charges fall under a second-degree misdemeanor. The assault charge is elevated to a first-degree misdemeanor if the victim is younger than 12 and the alleged perpetrator is 18 or older. The charge is downgraded to a third-degree misdemeanor when both sides mutually enter the fight.

The consequences of a simple assault conviction depend on the grade:

  • First-degree simple assault is punishable by a fine of up $10,000 and/or incarceration of up to 5 years.
  • Second-degree simple assault carries up to 2 years behind bars and/or as much as $5,000 in fines.
  • Third-degree simple assault faces up to one year in jail and/or fines up to $2,500.

All misdemeanors are part of your criminal record. Most assaults are considered violent crimes and are ineligible for expungement. A change to Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate laws now allows third-degree simple assault charges to be sealed. A petition to seal a third-degree simple assault can be made after 10 years have passed since the conviction without any subsequent arrests or convictions.

Aggravated Assault Definition

Aggravated assault in Pennsylvania is a violent felony crime. Assault is classified under this more consequential category when there is serious bodily injury or serious bodily injury is attempted.

Pennsylvania law defines serious bodily injury as “Bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”

This felony charge can also be filed if the victim is injured while acting in an official capacity in a protected profession.

Protected professionals include the following among others:

  • Police Officers
  • Doctors/Nurses
  • Health Care Technicians
  • Firefighters
  • Teachers
  • Judges
  • District Attorneys
  • Parole Officers

Aggravated assault can be either a first-degree or second-degree felony depending on the circumstances. The charge is upgraded to first-degree when the victim is one of the enumerated protected professionals or a deadly weapon is used in the commission of the assault. The charge is also first-degree if the alleged perpetrator is 18 and older and attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes serious bodily injury to a child less than 13 years of age.

The consequences of an aggravated assault conviction are as follows:

  • A first-degree felony conviction carries a prison sentence of between 10 and 20 years and a fine of up to $25,000.
  • A second-degree felony conviction can result in up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

Aggressive Legal Representation to Fight Assault Charges

Anyone who faces an assault charge of any kind needs strenuous defense from a skilled attorney at Scaringi Law. Most assault charges cannot be sealed and will negatively impact your future job opportunities, housing, and educational goals.

We will interview witnesses, examine all the evidence, and analyze any aspect of the case to build as strong of a defense as possible. Throughout the process, we will ensure you know all your rights and options.

For experienced legal counsel to fight criminal charges, contact Scaringi Law online or call (717) 775-7195.


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