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What to Do if You’re Charged with Simple Assault in Pennsylvania

Simple assault is one of the most common criminal charges in America, including Pennsylvania.  But how is it distinguished from aggravated assault, and what should you do if you’ve been charged?

What is Simple Assault?

Some instances of assault are extremely serious, causing permanent, disabling, and near-fatal injuries.  This is referred to as aggravated assault.  But while aggravated assault is relatively common, with over 26,000 cases reported by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency in 2013 alone, simple assault arrests are even more prevalent.

This is because aggravated assault is a felony, and charges are reserved for instances involving deadly weapons or causing extremely severe injuries.  By comparison, simple assault covers a much broader scope which includes all injuries (and attempts to cause injury) short of aggravated assault, which could mean something as minor as a scuffle outside of a bar.  Depending on the circumstances, even making a  verbal threat could be sufficient.

As you can see, it’s relatively easy to be charged with this sort of crime.   But if it happens to you, what should you do?  What are some of your potential defense options?

Simple Assault Charges in Pennsylvania

Your first step should always be to contact an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney who regularly handles assault cases.  While the following information can help shed some light on what to expect and avenues to explore, it is absolutely critical that you consult with a qualified lawyer, who will be able to evaluate the evidence against you and protect your legal rights in court.

Your attorney will weigh your situation against Pennsylvania’s simple assault laws, which you can find at 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2701.  These laws take a few factors into consideration, such as your intent at the time of the incident, and whether you were armed with a weapon.  For example, under 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2701 you may be found guilty if:

  • You cause (or attempt to cause) injury “intentionally, knowingly or
    recklessly.”  Those specifications are critical for defendants, because if your alleged “assault” was actually unintentional, then the case against you may be significantly weakened.  Is there any proof you acted recklessly, or that you knew what you were doing and intended to hurt the defendant?
  • You “negligently” cause injury with a “deadly weapon.”  The negligence component is actually important, because if you deliberately cause injury with a deadly weapon (i.e. “intentionally or knowingly”), you can be charged with aggravated assault, which is even more serious.  But did you really use a deadly weapon as alleged?  By Pennsylvania definition, found at 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2301  the term “deadly weapon” means:
    • Any firearm, even if it’s unloaded.
    • Any item “designed as a weapon and capable of producing death or serious bodily injury.”
    • Any item “likely to produce death or serious bodily injury” when used as intended.
  • You use “physical menace” to put another person in fear of immediate and serious physical injury.  Can this be proven by the prosecution?  Did the victim actually sustain any bodily injury?  Were you actually capable of carrying out the supposed threat?

Possible Defenses Against Simple Assault Charges in Pennsylvania

Furthermore, there are several different defenses which could apply to your case, known as affirmative defenses.  For example, under Pennsylvania law, you may be able to argue that:

  • You acted in self-defense.  You’ll need to be able to supply some sort of proof to back up this argument.  In turn, the District Attorney needs to successfully prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you did not act in self-defense.  If the District Attorney cannot do this, there is no longer a strong case against you and you may be found innocent.
  • The other person deliberately provoked you into attacking him or her.   This is called a provocation defense.
  • You were involuntarily intoxicated, meaning you ingested drugs or alcohol without your knowledge or consent.  The involuntary component of this defense is critical, because voluntary intoxication, such as getting drunk at a bar and starting a fight, cannot be used as a valid defense against assault charges.

Furthermore, the charges against you will be graded less severely if you and the other person mutually agreed to enter the fight.  While simple assault is usually graded as a second degree misdemeanor punishable by up to $5,000 in fines and two years of incarceration, a mutually agreed-upon scuffle is classed as a third degree misdemeanor, which carries the same maximum fine, but only three months in jail.

Pennsylvania Simple Assault Lawyers Offering Free Consultations

To arrange for a free and private consultation with a assault lawyer, call Young, Marr & Associates at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania today.



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Learn what to do if you have been stopped for DUI/DWI.

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If this is your first DUI offense, you may be eligible for ARD.



Commonwealth v. "H" (DUI case)

Client was charged with three separate DUI cases calling for mandatory minimum imprisonment of 90 days on each case. Client was advised to seek immediate intensive alcohol counseling. Client was sentenced to 1 year of house arrest after serving 3 days in the county prison.


Commonwealth v. "C" (Felony drug/Firearms case)

Client was charged with felony Delivery of drugs and illegal gun possession and was facing a mandatory 3-6 year prison sentence in the State prison system. Client was sentenced to one year of house arrest.


Commonwealth v. "S"

Client was charged with simple assault, domestic. After a hearing where evidence and testimony was presented, the entire case was dismissed by Judge Leonard Brown.


State of New Jersey v. "H"

Charges for young man charged with second degree aggravated assault were downgraded to third degree and he was accepted into the County Pretrial Intervention program with charges to be dismissed and record expunged after one year of misconduct free behavior.


We have decades of experience dealing with local police departments, prosecutors, and judges throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Anyone facing charges involving a criminal offense can expect to experience a heightened degree of emotional turmoil, for themselves, as well as their family members. Our team of highly qualified criminal law attorneys and expert legal support staff are committed to providing each of our client’s with the compassion and understanding they deserve, as well as an aggressive plan for representation at an affordable price.

As former prosecutors, we have a balanced and in-depth understanding of the criminal justice system and how the prosecution prepares cases. In addition, we have long-standing experience dealing with local police departments, prosecutors and judges throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

At Young, Marr and Associates, when we say “experience matters,” we mean it. Our lawyers, which include two former prosecutors and a former senior deputy district attorney bring more than three decades of criminal law experience, handling more than 10,000 criminal cases. It is precisely that experience that allows us to achieve outstanding results for our clients facing DUI, traffic, felony and misdemeanor charges in state, federal and juvenile courts.