There are two categories of assault in Pennsylvania: simple assault and aggravated assault. Simple Assault is defined as when the accused attempts to cause or intentionally or recklessly causes bodily injury to another; negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon or attempts to put another in fear of eminent serious bodily injury. Simple assault is further classified based on its severity. Simple assault is normally a second degree misdemeanor, unless it is committed during the course of a consensual fight when it is graded as a third degree misdemeanor, or if against a child under the age of twelve by an adult twenty-one years of age or older when it is graded as a first degree misdemeanor.
Aggravated Assault is when the accused attempts to cause or intentionally or recklessly causes serious bodily injury and is graded as a first degree felony. A second degree felony only requires bodily injury. The difference between assault being graded as a first degree felony and second degree felony is the word serious or an extreme indifference to human life. In addition any physical contact with a police or probation officer will always be charged as aggravated assault.
Some common defenses to Assault charges are lack of intent to harm, no bodily injury occurred, self-defense, provocation, insanity or intoxication but the intoxication cannot be voluntary.
While the difference between simple assault and aggravated assault may seem minor there is a dramatic difference in the potential sentences if the accused is found guilty. Especially since Aggravated Assault is either a 1st or 2nd degree felony. The maximum penalty for a felony, misdemeanor and summary offenses are as follows:
|Felony 1st Degree||20 years in prison|
|Felony 2nd Degree||10 years in prison|
|Felony 3rd Degree||7 years in prison|
|Misdemeanor 1st Degree||5 years in prison|
|Misdemeanor 2nd Degree||2 years in prison|
|Misdemeanor 3rd Degree||1 year in prison|
|Summary Offense||90 days in county jail|