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On Behalf of | Jul 10, 2024

When do assault charges escalate to a felony?

On Behalf of | Jul 10, 2024 | Criminal Law

In Pennsylvania, assault charges can vary from misdemeanors to felonies, depending on how serious the incident was and the specific details involved. Knowing the difference between these levels of charges can help explain the possible legal consequences of an assault accusation.

What is simple assault?

Simple assault typically qualifies as a misdemeanor. This charge applies when a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another. A charge could also come from an attempt to cause an injury, or negligently causing injury with a deadly weapon. Simple assault can also involve physical menace. This is where someone attempts to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.

What is aggravated assault?

Aggravated assault is a more serious charge and the courts considered it a felony. This charge is appropriate when a person attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another. This includes causing an injury intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly under circumstances that show extreme indifference to the value of human life. Aggravated assault also includes attempts or actual assaults against certain protected classes, including police officers, firefighters, teachers, and other public officials, which can elevate the severity of the charge.

Factors that elevate an assault to a felony

Several factors can elevate an assault from a misdemeanor to a felony. These include:

  • The severity of the injury: More severe injuries lead to more serious charges.
  • The intent of the perpetrator: If the perpetrator carried out the assault with intent to cause serious injury or showed reckless disregard for human life, the courts are more likely to charge it as a felony.
  • The use of a weapon: Using a weapon increases the likelihood of the charge being a felony, especially if the courts deem the weapon as deadly.
  • The status of the victim: Assaults against children or certain protected professionals like law enforcement officers are typically treated more severely.

Additionally, individuals with previous assault convictions might face heightened charges if the police arrest them on that charge again.

Consequences of misdemeanor vs. felony assault

The consequences of misdemeanor versus felony assault differ significantly. A misdemeanor simple assault might result in probation, fines, or a short jail sentence. In contrast, a felony aggravated assault could lead to long-term imprisonment, larger fines, and more substantial long-term effects on the perpetrator’s life, including difficulties in securing employment, loss of certain civil rights like voting, and the stigma of a felony record.

In Pennsylvania, whether an assault charge is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony depends on multiple different factors. Felony charges carry much steeper penalties and longer-lasting consequences, underscoring the seriousness with which the legal system treats such offenses. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for anyone involved in or affected by an assault case.

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