Every year, Penn State students or other visitors to Happy Valley have a bit too much to drink and resist arrest or otherwise get into a physical tussle with a local police officer. In some of the cases, the officers suffer severe injuries, but, in others, the police injuries are relatively minor. While there may be a disparity in the level of injuries inflicted, the perpetrators are generally charged with felony offenses of Aggravated Assault.
A Misconception About Pennsylvania Aggravated Assault, 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2702
Many people mistakenly focus on the word "aggravated" in an Aggravated Assault charge and assume that the charge requires a relatively severe level of injury to the victim. A charge of Aggravated Assault is permitted if a person either causes or attempts to cause serious bodily injury, but such a charge can also be filed if the person caused or attempted to cause just a bodily injury to a police officer that was engaged in the performance of his or her duties. Many of the State College Aggravated Assault cases involve police officers suffering relatively minor to moderate injuries. The severity of the injuries to the officer and the level of resistance of the perpetrator are considered by the Centre County District Attorney when determining the plea offer that will be issued in such a case.
State College Officer Suffers Serious Bodily Injury
In a relatively recent Centre County Aggravated Assault case, a State College police officer suffered a broken rib after trying to subdue and arrest a naked Penn State student. The man was high on drugs at the time, so he most likely did not really intend to become combative with the officer, but voluntary intoxication on drugs or alcohol is rarely a defense to a criminal charge. Because of the severity of the injury, the man was originally charged with causing or attempting to cause serious bodily injury, a felony charge that carried a recommended sentence in a state correctional institution. Ultimately, the man accepted a plea to a lesser felony charge of Aggravated Assault and was sentenced to the Centre County prison for a period of 90 days.
Penn State Officer Injured
In another relatively recent Penn State Aggravated Assault on officer case, a drunk student attempted to avoid being detained, and possibly arrested, by Penn State police officers outside Beaver Stadium. While the officers attempted to take the man into custody and keep him from fleeing, it was alleged that the student struck one of the officers in the knee. The online news report stated that the officer was not hurt. The man was charged with Aggravated Assault, Simple Assault, Resisting Arrest, Underage Drinking, and Public Drunkenness. The student ultimately resolved his case by pleading guilty to the misdemeanor charge of Resisting Arrest for a sentence of 2 years of probation, which means that both assault charges were dismissed and the man did not spend any time in jail as part of his sentence. In my opinion, the primary difference between this case and the earlier mentioned case was the severity of the injuries inflicted upon the officer.
Recent Assault on State College Officer Case
The first weekend with Penn State students returning to Happy Hallvey, a student was charged with Aggravated Assault after allegedly forcibly resisting arrest and attempting to escape from the State College police. The Penn State newspaper noted that an officer suffered minor abrasions, so no major injuries. I would expect that the Centre County District Attorney's Office is likely to treat this case similar to the Penn State assault case. If the young man is lucky, he will be able to avoid any conviction of felony charges and hopefully stay out of prison.