In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania a charge of Aggravated Assault is graded as a felony, whereas Simple Assault is graded as a misdemeanor. Generally, the distinction between the charges is based upon the severity of the injury inflicted or the severity of the injury that was intended to be inflicted upon the victim.
Serious Bodily Injury
More specifically, a charge of Aggravated Assault generally requires that the assault suspect either caused or intended to cause a "serious bodily injury," and a charge of Simple Assault only requires evidence that the assault suspect either caused or intended to cause a "bodily injury." Pennsylvania law, in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2301, defines "bodily injury" as the impairment of physical condition or substantial pain. "Serious bodily injury" is a bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.
Who determines if a bodily injury is "Serious"?
Initially, it is the investigating officer that determines whether or not an injury is a "serious bodily injury" or a "bodily injury" as the officer is the person that files the initial charges. After charges are filed, the district attorney and a judge consider the severity of the injury and determine whether the charges should be Aggravated Assault or Simple Assault. In some situations, a case proceeds to a trial, and, in such a case, it is a jury that determines whether a particular injury is just a "bodily injury" or a "serious bodily injury." If the jury does not believe that a person suffered a "serious bodily injury," then the jury find the criminal defendant not guilty of Aggravated Assault.
Felony charges often based upon status of victim
The felony charge of Aggravated Assault can also be based upon the status of the victim in the case. In Pennsylvania, the law attempts to protect particular classes of people based upon their occupation. Protected persons include police officers, nurses, emergency medical technicians, firemen, teachers, judges, and district attorneys. When the Aggravated Assault charge is based upon the protection of a protected class, the charge only requires a "bodily injury" and not a "serious bodily injury."
Resisting Arrest can cause Aggravated Assault charges
In Centre County, Penn State students are often charged with Aggravated Assault based upon resisting arrest incidents with police officers in which the officers suffered a bodily injury. Another scenario involves medical treatment being administered to a person against his or her will, such as being forced into an ambulance or treated at the emergency room, and injuring a medical staff person.
If you or a loved one have any questions about a charge of Simple Assault or Aggravated Assault please do not hesitate to call our downtown State College law office today