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What Factors Change the Degree of Simple
Assault Charges?

Luff Strenfel LLP Oct. 6, 2020

Assault is a criminal offense that involves injuring someone or making them fear for their safety. You might already know that the state of Pennsylvania breaks assault into two primary categories. Simple assault involves attempting to cause bodily harm, negligently causing bodily harm or making someone fear for their safety. Aggravated assault involves serious bodily harm, an attack on a police officer or a weapon.

What you might not know is that Pennsylvania also differentiates between different levels of simple assault. In general, simple assault is a second-degree misdemeanor. Depending on certain factors that lead to assault charges, a person might face different levels of misdemeanor charges related to the offense.

What situations might result in more serious or less serious simple assault charges?

When an Adult Assaults a Child, the State
Upgrades the Charges

Age can be a major factor in the degree of the assault charges that someone faces if the victim isn’t yet a teenager. If the alleged victim is under the age of 12 and the alleged perpetrator is age 18 or older, the defendant will likely face first-degree misdemeanor charges instead of a second-degree misdemeanor.

If the Altercation Was Consensual, the State May Downgrade Charges

There are situations where both people involved in an altercation initially consented to the interaction. An example might be if you get into an argument at a party or a bar and both you and the other person involved agree to take the argument outside to settle it.

Once you begin trading blows, the potential exists for other people who see the fight to call the police or for the other person to change their mind and decide to charge you with assault, especially if they get seriously hurt or have other consequences for the fight. In that situation, provided that you can prove that both people agreed to the fight at first, the state might level third-degree misdemeanor assault charges against you.

Violent criminal offenses not only carry significant criminal penalties but also substantial social stigma. If you hope to protect your reputation and freedom, it may be necessary to discuss your situation and any aggravating or exculpatory details with a criminal defense attorney.