Assault and Battery: What are the Legal Differences?

man beating helpless woman at homeUnderstanding assault and battery charges can sometimes be confusing, but criminal defense attorneys in PA know how to help.

The terms are often used interchangeably, so it’s important to recognize the legal differences between them. Pennsylvania does not have a specific battery charge or criminal statute; instead, its criminal code integrates both simple and aggravated battery into the laws to address assault.

Pennsylvania’s laws categorize assault under “simple” or “aggravated.”

Simple assault in Pennsylvania is a misdemeanor and occurs when an individual knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly inflicts bodily injury, attempts to, or makes a violent threat of bodily injury against another.

While the description above is for a “simple” charge, an aggravated charge is completely different and much more severe. However, the latter is something an experienced PA criminal defense attorney can help you with, such as one of the criminal defense associates at Engle Kauffman and VanHorn.

A Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney, such as a State College criminal defense lawyer, knows when a simple charge is converted into an aggravated one.

Let’s take a look at simple assault versus aggravated assault in Pennsylvania, and then discover how criminal defense attorneys can help.

Simple Assault in PA

Knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly threatening assault, making another person fear assault, or making physical contact define the misdemeanor charge, which is simple assault.

To act “knowingly” is to be aware of what you’re doing, and to realize your actions have ramifications. Even if an individual does not intend for something to happen, they still must face the consequences of their actions. For example, if you punch someone, and they fall only to hit their head, you knew what you were doing, and thereby acted “knowingly”. Even if you did not intend for the other person to hit their head, you still knew they could get hurt as a consequence of your actions.

A reckless act means you don’t care about the risks that come about because of your actions. The law states that someone acts “recklessly” — even if they don’t realize the risk — when a reasonable person in the same scenario would respect the extreme possible risk involved.

A “negligent” act consists of when someone is aware of the risks of their actions but proceeds with their actions anyway.

A simple assault can consist of an individual suffering a physical injury, but an injury is not required for someone to be charged. Physical contact such as grabbing someone, groping them, or punching them can all fall under simple assault.

In addition, Pennsylvania law bares no distinction between simple assault with or without the threat of a deadly weapon. A deadly weapon is defined as a weapon that could cause serious injury and/or death, such as a knife or handgun. An individual who threatens another person with a weapon yet does not inflict physical harm may just face a simple assault charge.

Aggravated Assault in PA

Aggravated assault in Pennsylvania is a violent crime that often results in an individual facing a felony charge and years, if not decades, in prison.

The primary difference between simple assault and aggravated assault is whether a serious bodily injury occurs.

PA law defines bodily injury as the “impairment of the physical condition with substantial pain.”

However, PA law defines serious bodily injury as “an injury with a significant death risk, or an injury which results in permanent disfigurement or bodily function impairment.”

An individual may face more severe consequences if the injuries in question were the result of the use of a deadly weapon — consequences such as a felony 2 aggravated assault charge.

If no weapon was used, an individual may face a lesser felony 1 aggravated assault charge still signifying their “intense indifference to human life.”

If an individual assaults a police officer or a public safety official, they will face much harsher and more serious consequences.

Simple Assault Penalties in PA

If you face a simple assault charge, you will be charged with a class two misdemeanor, and possibly up to two years in prison. A simple assault of mutual consent is a class three misdemeanor with a possible penalty of up to one year in prison. If you face a simple assault charge against a child under 12, you will be faced with a class one misdemeanor and possibly up to 5 years in prison.

Aggravated Assault Penalties in PA

Aggravated assault penalties are more severe than simple assault penalties.

If you face an aggravated assault charge or an aggravated assault charge with a deadly weapon causing bodily injury, you will be charged with a class two felony, and possibly face up to 10 years in prison. If you are charged with aggravated assault with extreme indifference to human life, you will be charged with a class one felony and possibly face up to 20 years in prison.

How a Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

When it comes to a criminal defense attorney PA criminal lawyers know the ropes.

Criminal law State College PA attorneys can help you if you’re faced with an aggravated assault and battery charge, such as one of the criminal defense associates at Engle Kauffman and VanHorn.

Each of its criminal defense associates represents PA clients who face assault and battery circumstances and charges described above, and they can help you, too!

Contact Engle Kauffman and VanHorn now.