Charges involving interpersonal violence can lead to incarceration, fines and a criminal record that will affect someone’s life for many years to come. Assault is one of the most common violence-related charges that is prosecuted in Pennsylvania. Simple assault can lead to second-degree misdemeanor charges.
Without any aggravating factors, a first-time charge of simple assault could result in up to two years in prison and $5,000 in fines. A number of different circumstances could lead to simple assault charges. These are the three main categories of behavior that can lead to assault charges in Pennsylvania.
1. Intentionally causing physical harm to another
Someone punching another person during an argument in a bar is a classic example of assault. Intentionally making physical contact with someone to hurt them is an act of assault even if the injury that results is minor and causes no lasting medical consequences.
2. Physically menacing another person
Technically, someone involved in a physical altercation with another person doesn’t have to injure the other party for a prosecutor to charge them with assault. They only need to engage in behaviors specifically intended to intimidate the other party. Rushing at someone as though to grab them or pulling back an arm to intimate that a punch is in coming would be examples of physically menacing behavior that could lead to assault charges in Pennsylvania.
3. Causing accidental injury with a weapon
Some assault charges have nothing to do with one person meaning to hurt someone else and everything to do with negligent behavior. Improperly handling a firearm, for example, might lead to it accidentally discharging. An incident like that could result in injury to a total stranger. Prosecutors in Pennsylvania can bring assault charges after one person causes injury to another negligently with a potentially deadly weapon. Additionally, the state can charge someone with assault in cases involving an attempt to hide a hypodermic needle that results in injury to law enforcement, detention workers or mental health professionals.
Sometimes, what seems like an assault on the surface has a perfectly reasonable explanation that does not involve someone breaking the law. Evaluating the evidence and charges that the state intends to pursue can help someone plan a criminal defense strategy with the assistance of an experienced legal professional when facing assault charges.