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What is the difference between simple and aggravated assault?

If you face assault charges in Pennsylvania, you may have questions about exactly what law enforcement officers allege you did. In addition, you may not know that Pennsylvania has two types of assault: simple and aggravated. The former is a misdemeanor, while the latter is a felony, so their penalties are significantly different depending on which one you allegedly committed and whether or not the prosecutor can actually prove that you committed it.

Basically, either type of assault charge in Pennsylvania means that the officer who arrested you believed you attempted to harm someone, even if you did not succeed in your alleged attempt.

Simple assault

To convict you of simple assault, the evidence must prove that you engaged in one of the following:

  • Recklessly, intentionally and/or knowingly tried to cause bodily harm to your victim
  • Attempted via physical menace to intimidate your victim with imminent serious bodily harm
  • Caused your victim to sustain bodily injury via a deadly weapon
  • Stuck a jail or correctional official or a police officer with a hypodermic needle while (s)he was searching or arresting you

Aggravated assault

As its name implies, aggravated assault is an egregious type of assault. Here the evidence must prove that you engaged in one of the following:

  • Showed extreme indifference to your victim’s life by causing him or her serious bodily injury
  • Attempted to cause or actually caused serious injury to a correctional or parole officer, sheriff or deputy sheriff, law enforcement officer, or other enforcement officer or put that person in fear of receiving serious injury
  • Attempted to cause or intentionally and knowingly did cause a school worker to suffer serious bodily injury
  • Used noxious gas on a city or state official while (s)he was performing his or her official duties

As you can see, most Pennsylvania aggravated assault charges result when your alleged victim was some kind of governmental official.

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