The Pennsylvania legislature is considering changing the Aggravated Assault law to change the definition of "public utility employee" to include employees of cable television, phone, and electrical companies or independent contractors working for such companies. This would generally mean that an assault involving such a person as a victim would result in substantially increased punishment for the alleged perpetrator. In the future, if your cable service provider or telephone repair man is late, you had best keep your cool or else you may be charged with a felony assault charge.
Review of Pennsylvania Assault Law
In Pennsylvania, a person that causes or attempts to cause a "bodily injury" is generally charged with a misdemeanor offense of Simple Assault, whereas a person that engages in a more serious altercation and either causes or attempts to cause a "serious bodily injury" is charged with a felony offense of Aggravated Assault. An exception to the general rule is that a "bodily injury" committed against a special type of person results in a charge of Aggravated Assault. The Pennsylvania Aggravated Assault law contains a list of occupations that are afforded special protection, and the protected classes of people are primarily comprised of public employees, such as police, judge, district attorneys, firefighters, emergency services personnel, and employees of schools.
As a Centre County criminal defense attorney, I handle many State College assault cases that involve intoxicated Penn State students that are alleged to have caused bodily injuries to police and emergency services personnel in the ambulance or at the hospital. The severity of the injuries caused or extent of disorderly behavior from the defendant has a direct impact on how such cases are resolved. In the relatively minor situations, the client is charged with Disorderly Conduct and Public Drunkenness. In more severe cases, the client is charged with Aggravated Assault.
Difference in Punishment Between Simple and Aggravated Assault
The punishment for assault convictions varies drastically depending upon whether the person was convicted of Simple or Aggravated Assault. Simple Assault is normally graded as a misdemeanor of the second degree and thereby punishable by up to 2 years incarceration and a $5,000.00 fine. A charge of Aggravated Assault that alleges that a special person received a "bodily injury" is graded as a felony of the second degree and thereby punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a $25,000.00 fine.
Aside from the possible prison sentence and more severe fine, collateral consequences associated with a felony conviction may include a reduced ability to obtain employment, prohibition on joining the military or working for the government, inability to secure student aid or other government loans, and a lifetime prohibition on the possession of a firearm. The best way to reduce the possible criminal sentence and avoid collateral consequences is to hire an experienced State College assault defense attorney.