Assault With a Christmas Tree

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, but a woman chose to attack her would-be-spouse.  A 20-year-old Florida woman became somewhat of a grinch on Christmas Eve and took a verbal argument with her boyfriend a bit too far.  The woman grabbed the Christmas tree that had been standing by the chimney with care, and she struck her boyfriend with it.  I have heard of people using knives and bottles as weapons, but I have never heard of a Christmas tree being used as a weapon.

Pennsylvania Assault Charges

While a weapon was used, the boyfriend only suffered from some minor scratches.  If this happened in Pennsylvania the woman may face a charge of misdemeanor Simple Assault for causing or attempting to cause a “bodily injury”.  The definition of “bodily injury” is “impairment of physical condition or substantial pain.”  The woman would probably have a good defense argument that the minor scratches were not sufficient to be considered a bodily injury.  However, the prosecutor could also argue that the woman had attempted to cause a bodily injury, evidenced by the fact that she used a weapon.  The defense would counter-argue that the tree was not really a weapon, possibly analogizing to attacking someone with a Nerf gun.  If the woman truly intended to harm the man, she could have found a more dangerous weapon than a Christmas tree.  Whether or not the woman had the intent to cause a bodily injury would be a decision made by a jury after a trial.

Most likely, this case should be charged as a summary offense of Disorderly Conduct for engaging in fighting.  A conviction of a summary offense often results in a fine being imposed and does not normally result in any jail time.  A conviction of a summary offense in Pennsylvania can be expunged after five years if the person stays out of trouble.

Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Conviction and Gun Rights

If the woman were convicted of Simple Assault, a misdemeanor offense in Pennsylvania, it would trigger a Federal firearm prohibition because the matter was domestic violence related.  Normally, Simple Assault does not prevent a person from possessing a firearm because the offense is not severe enough to trigger a Federal law that prohibits firearm possession for felony or more severe misdemeanor convictions.  However, under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9), a person that is convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense is prohibited from firearm possession.  The prohibition is a lifetime prohibition Many people incorrectly think that a conviction disappears or goes away after a period of years and a person’s gun rights are then restored.

In Pennsylvania, under the Clean Slate law, some convictions are moved to “limited access”, meaning removed from public access, but the movement of the conviction to limited access does NOT restore gun rights.  The conviction is still on the records, records that can be viewed by law enforcement, and those records would still prevent a person from buying or possessing a gun.  If the person tried to buy a gun in Pennsylvania, the person would fail the PICS check and could be charged with new offenses for providing false information on the purchase forms.  The only way to restore the right to possess a firearm is to obtain a pardon to have the conviction set aside.  Interested in a pardon, contact an experienced Pennsylvania pardon like Jason S. Dunkle from JD Law in State College.