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Sometimes, an argument accelerates from angry words exchanged to fists, especially when the participants have been drinking. When this occurs, assault charges often follow.

If you had a night that got out of hand and now you face a Pennsylvania court date for assault, familiarize yourself with the charges and possible penalties for this type of offense.

Simple assault

A simple assault charge means you harmed or tried to harm another person either knowingly and on purpose or through reckless actions. Other situations categorized as simple assault include the following:

  • Injury to another person caused by negligent behavior with a deadly weapon
  • Penetration of a law enforcement official with a needle during an arrest or body search
  • The use of physical intimidation to threaten another person with harm

The court considers assault a third-degree misdemeanor if both parties entered the fight consensually. This charge carries a sentence of up to one year in prison plus administrative fines. In cases that did not involve a consensual fight, simple assault is a second-degree misdemeanor. A first-degree misdemeanor simple assault, which carries up to five years in prison, occurs when an adult older than 21 assaults a child younger than 12.

Aggravated assault

With aggravated assault, the court must determine that the defendant was indifferent to human life when he or she caused another person severe harm. Other examples include the following:

  • The use of tear gas or a stun gun on a police officer, firefighter or any other public official in the line of duty, or any other attempt or threat to harm these individuals
  • Causing or trying to cause severe bodily harm to a teacher while he or she is at work

Aggravated assault is a second-degree felony in Pennsylvania, which carries up to 10 years in prison. If the incident involves a firefighter or police officer, the court upgrades the charge to a first-degree felony with up to 20 years in prison.