Pittsburgh Assault Lawyer
Simple assault and its more serious variation aggravated assault are crimes of physical violence in which the victim doesn’t die as a result of the violence. If death resulted, the charge would be murder or manslaughter.
As violent crimes go, simple assault is treated as a relatively minor offense, by both the law and general community values. Many people lose their tempers occasionally and lash out in ways that amount to simple assault, but it’s still important to hire a good Pittsburgh assault lawyer to ensure your case is properly handled.
Even this minor offense, however, carries criminal penalties and leaves you with a criminal record if you are convicted.
Pennsylvania Law on Simple Assault
Simple assault is a broad charge in Pennsylvania. Generally speaking, it encompasses five very different behaviors:
- Attempting to cause bodily injury
- Actually causing bodily injury with behavior that is intentional, knowing, or reckless
- Actually causing bodily injury by negligent use of a deadly weapon
- Attempting to cause someone to fear that he will imminently suffer a serious bodily injury by physically menacing that person
- Penetrating a law enforcement officer, correctional officer or employee, or a mental hospital employee with a hypodermic needle during an arrest or a search, if the action is intentional or knowing
All the above are second degree misdemeanors, unless:
- Raised to a first degree misdemeanor because the victim was a child under 12 years of age by an adult 21 years of age or older
- Raised to a first degree misdemeanor because the victim was a sports official and the assault occurred during the sporting event, or because of the victim’s actions as a sorts official
- Lowered to a third degree misdemeanor because the victim had mutually consented to a fight
One definition of criminal harassment in Pennsylvania is subjecting or threatening to subject someone to physical contact such as kicks, shoves, and strikes for the intentional purpose of annoying, alarming, or harassing them.
Although not technically “assault,” it’s a similar crime. Under some circumstances it can be difficult to determine whether a given confrontation should be considered an assault or harassment.
Harassment is classified as a summary offense, a less serious charge than assault.
Hate Crimes or Ethnic Intimidation
Pennsylvania also prohibits what is known as “ethnic intimidation,” a form of what we generally call bias crimes or hate crimes. This offense applies when another crime has been committed because of malice toward any one of numerous groups including but not limited to ethnic identity. Ethnic intimidation can be charged if an assault is committed with malice toward the victim’s race, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, disability, and so forth.
Ethnic intimidation is classed one degree higher than the underlying offense in most cases: a second degree misdemeanor assault committed on a racial basis, for example, is first degree ethnic intimidation. If the underlying offense was a summary offense, the ethnic intimidation charge is a third degree misdemeanor.
Penalties for Pittsburgh Assault Charges
The penalty you’re potentially facing depends on the class of the specific offense. Simple assault in which the victim mutually agreed to a fight is a summary offense, with a maximum of 90 days jail time. In most other of first offense simple assaults, the offense is a second degree misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 2 years, or a first degree misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 5 years.
Legal Defenses to Assault Charges
An experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney will always examine the behavior of the police and the prosecution to ensure that the rights of the defendant have not been violated. Specific defenses to simple assault charges vary tremendously, depending on the specific circumstances and the specific type of simple assault charged. It is always a defense that:
- The defendant was not the person who committed the assault (may be based on mistaken identity or the victim’s deliberate false claim)
- The defendant was legally justified in committing it (self-defense, etc.)
- The state failed to prove a necessary element of the charge (i.e., that there was, in fact, “bodily injury,” or intent, etc.)
Many of these defenses require considerable investigation. It takes time and experience to piece together the evidence needed to, for example, show that the alleged victim is lying about what happened.
Further Reading on Aggravated Assault
Contact Our Pittsburgh Assault Lawyer for Legal Representation with the Best Outcome
Life is hard enough without a criminal record. And even the mildest penalties for assault carry the possibility of jail time ranging from 90 days to several years. Get the help of an experienced Pittsburgh assault lawyer with decades of experience successfully handling violent crime cases throughout Western Pennsylvania.
Call the law offices of Gary Gerson today. A highly experienced assault defense attorney with more than 25 years of experience to his credit, Gary will defend your rights, make sure the prosecution respects those rights, and see your case through to the end, whether that means a trial or a fair plea agreement. The sooner you call, the sooner Gary can begin to prepare your defense, so make that call as soon as you are arrested or even earlier—as soon as you feel that there is a possibility of an arrest. It may be possible to prevent charges from being filed, so pick up the phone and make that call now.