Our criminal defense law firm is based in Philadelphia but we defend accused persons throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. While some of our clients are charged with non violent offenses such as the illegal possession of drugs or narcotics and driving under the influence (DUI), many of our cases involve the representation of those charged with violent offenses or crimes.
In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the are different degrees of assault. A criminal assault charge’s grading is normally based on the level of force used or the intent to use that force. In Pennsylvania, assault is divided into two categories, aggravated assault (Title 18, Section 2702), graded as a felony crime and simple assault (Title 18, 2701), graded as a misdemeanor offense. This distinction is very important and your criminal lawyer must explain it to you. A felony crime subjects you to a potential state prison sentence. A misdemeanor offense conviction doesn’t necessary mean that you are going to jail but it is still a possibility. I usually discuss these concepts when I discuss legal fees with a clients and their families. Watch this video to learn more about legal fees right now.
Aggravated Assault – Felony of the First vs. Felony of the Second Degree
The charge of Aggravated Assault requires the prosecution prove beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant intentionally or knowingly caused or attempted to cause serious bodily injury or bodily injury with a deadly weapon. This can be graded as a felony of the first or second degree depending on the injuries or attempts to cause those injuries.
It is a felony of the first degree where the prosecution proves beyond a reasonable doubt the person acted knowingly and intentionally to cause serious bodily injury. It is a felony of the second degree where the prosecution establishes that the person acted knowingly or intentionally to cause bodily injury (as opposed to serious bodily injury) with a deadly weapon.
Other Criminal Charges – Terroristic Threats & REAP
In addition to this charge, a person faced with this allegation quite often faces the charge of Terroristic Threat, a misdemeanor of the second degree. (Title 18, Section 2706.) This offense is committed when a person either directly or indirectly communicates a threat to commit any crime of violence. Another criminal charge that criminal lawyers usually see is Recklessly Endangering Another Person (REAP) (Title 18, Section 2705). REAP is a misdemeanor of the second degree and is committed if the person recklessly engages in conduct which places another person in fear of bodily injury or death.
If you’re charged with Aggravated Assault graded as a felony of the second degree, the district attorney will also likely charge of Possession of an Instrument of Crime, a misdemeanor of the first degree (Title 18, Section 907). Remember that the difference between an aggravated assault of the first and second degree is not only harm or attempted harm inflicted but also the possession of deadly weapon. An instrument of crime can be anything used as a deadly weapon.
Members of Protected Classes & Aggravated Assault
Remember that usually, the difference between and aggravated and simple assault is the degree of harm inflicted or the attempt to cause that harm. There are, however, exceptions to this general rule. In Pennsylvania, if a person attempts to cause or intentionally or knowingly causes bodily injury to certain officers (police, fire fighters), agents, employees or other persons (enumerated persons) in the performance of duty, it is Felony of the Second Degree. Normally, this offense is a misdemeanor offense but the law treat these protected persons differently.
Other Protected Persons – Children less than 6 years of age
Finally, in addition to police officers, other members of law enforcement, and agents of the Commonwealth, Pennsylvania law also treats small children differently. If a person attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to a child less than six years of age, and the accused person is 18 years of age or older, it is a Felony of the Second Degree. Further, if the Defendant attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes serious bodily injury to a child less than 13 years of age, and the accused person 18 years of age or older, it is a Felony of the First Degree. Again, notice the distinction based on the degree of harm.
Aggravated Assault In New Jersey
New Jersey is very similar to Pennsylvania when it comes to assault charges. Read my article on Assault Charges in New Jersey for more information on this topic.
Conclusion – Hire a Criminal Lawyer
If you’re charged with crime in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, please hire a criminal lawyer. If you do nothing else, don’t hire a lawyer who claims “they do it all” or who have a “general practice.”