Why was I charged with Aggravated Assault and not just Simple Assault?

In Pennsylvania a charge of Aggravated Assault is a felony and Simple Assault is a misdemeanor.  The difference between the charges is whether or not the injury was just a “bodily injury” or was it a “serious bodily injury.”  The “victim” in the case also impacts the charge.  If the victim was a on a protected list, like a judge, teacher, fireperson, EMT, or police officer, then a normal Simple Assault charge increases to a felony of Aggravated Assault.

Serious Bodily Injury

Aggravated Assault generally requires that the defendant either caused or intended to cause a “serious bodily injury,” and a charge of Simple Assault only requires evidence that the defendant caused or intended to cause a “bodily injury.” Bodily injury is defined in 18 Pa.C.S. 2301 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.  Smaller injuries like bruising and possibly minor bone breaks are bodily injuries, where as the breaking of big, important bones or injuries that will not be healed are serious bodily injuries.

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.  Ulimately, a jury will decide whether an injury was a serious bodily injury or just a bodily injury and thereby determines whether or not a person is guilty of Aggravated Assault or only guilty of Simple Assault.

Felony charge of Aggravated Assault Because of 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.