What Causes a Charge of Simple Assault?
Simple assault, as outlined in Pennsylvania's 18 Pa. C.S. § 2701, can be charged when any one of the four elements are met:
- attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another;
- negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon;
- attempts by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury; or
- conceals or attempts to conceal a hypodermic needle on his person and intentionally or knowingly penetrates a law enforcement officer or an officer or an employee of a correctional institution, county jail or prison, detention facility or mental hospital during the course of an arrest or any search of the person.
As written, these may be a bit hard to comprehend and some elements do need a bit of explanation. Lets start with the first element.
Attempting or Causing Bodily Injury
First, it should be understood that this first element applies when the attempt or injury was caused intentionally or recklessly. Not only is it likely you’d be charged with this if you were trying to harm someone, but also if you intentionally disregarded a risk that subsequently caused the harm.
Simply put, if you take an action to intentionally injure someone or take an action while disregarding the risks of that action when harming someone, you can be charged with simple assault. The biggest takeaway for this element is that you do not need to have intent to be charged for this crime.
Negligently Causing Bodily Harm With a Deadly Weapon
This element is relatively straight forward on the surface. If you cause bodily harm with anything that can be considered a deadly weapon while also acting negligently, you can be charged with simple assault. However, it is important to understand what is considered negligent and what does the Commonwealth of PA consider a deadly weapon?
Negligence is typically defined as a risk that an ordinary person would not have taken. Negligence is not considered as severe as reckless so the Commonwealth only needs to demonstrate that you took an action with a deadly weapon that a person of ordinary prudence would not have.
What constitutes a ‘deadly weapon’ often varies depending on circumstances. Clearly, we all perceive such things as firearms as deadly weapons. But, in some circumstances, the Commonwealth can argue that your fists themselves are deadly weapons. You must be careful to not assume that something is not a deadly weapon because you do not perceive it as such.
Putting Another in Fear of Imminent Serious Bodily Injury
Simply put, if you ‘attempted by physical menace’ to make someone believe you were going to seriously harm them, you can be charged with simple assault. ‘Physical menace’ is defined by precedent as ‘menacing or frightening activity’ --Commonwealth v. Repko, 817 A.2d 549, 554 (PA. Super. 2003). Unlike the first element, intent is required. The Commonwealth must show that you intentionally caused a potential victim to believe they were going to incur serious bodily injury.
Concealed Hypodermic Needles During Arrest or Search
This charge occurs more often than one would think. Typically, drugs and drug paraphernalia is not often someone points out as something they have on their person, for obvious reasons. This results in people being detained to attempt to hide or be less truthful about what might be in their pockets. If an officer were to subsequently reach into a pocket during a search and poke themselves with a needle, you could be charged with simple assault. A good example of this can be found in this news article here.
Penalties for Simple Assault
Simple Assault can be charged as a misdemeanor of the first, second or third degree depending on the facts and issues surrounding the arrest. Typically, it is charged as an M2 unless the assault occurs as part of a fight or scuffle entered into by mutual consent in which it will be charged as an M3 or If the victim is 12 years of age or younger while the offender is 18 or older, it can be charged as an M1.
An M2 carries a penalty of up to 2 years in jail and a $5,000 fine while an M1 carries a penalty of up to 5 years in jail and a $10,000 fine. The least severe charge of M3 can get you up to 1 year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Why Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney?
Facing a simple assault charge is a serious matter, and having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side can make all the difference. Here's why you should consider legal representation:
- Protection of Rights: A criminal defense attorney is well-versed in the law and can ensure that your rights are protected throughout the legal process.
- Negotiation Skills: An experienced criminal defense attorney can negotiate with prosecutors to seek a favorable plea deal, reducing potential penalties.
- Building a Strong Defense: A criminal defense attorney will investigate your case, gather evidence where applicable, and build a robust defense strategy, potentially leading to reduced charges or an acquittal.
- Knowledge of the System: Navigating the Pennsylvania criminal justice system can be daunting, but a criminal defense attorney will guide you every step of the way.
If you or someone you know is facing a simple assault charge in Pennsylvania, remember that you don't have to face it alone. As an experienced criminal defense attorney, I am here to help protect your rights, build a strong defense, and work towards the best possible outcome for your case. Don't wait; contact me today to discuss your situation and take the first step towards securing your future. Your peace of mind is worth it.