In Pennsylvania, the crime most typically associated with inflicting injury upon another person is called assault. Unlike in some jurisdictions that use the terms “battery” or “assault and battery,” in Pennsylvania, a person can be guilty of the crime of assault if he attempts to cause or causes injury to another in a legally culpable manner. Moreover, a person can also be convicted of assault if they attempt by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
Under Pennsylvania law, the crime of assault can generally be divided into two categories: simple assault, a misdemeanor under 18 Pa.C.S.A §2701 and aggravated assault, a felony under 18 Pa.C.S.A §2702 (although there are a number of other very specific assault crimes such as assault of a law enforcement officer, assault by prisoner, etc.). Furthermore, assault crimes are typically charged in conjunction with other lesser included offenses such as recklessly endangering another person, terroristic threats, and harassment.
The least serious of the two major categories outlined above is simple assault, which is generally a misdemeanor of the second degree unless committed in the course of a fight or scuffle entered into by mutual consent (in which case it is a misdemeanor of the third degree) or against a victim under 12 years of age by a perpetrator over the age of 21 (in which case it is a misdemeanor of the first degree).
All aggravated assaults, the more serious counterpart, constitute felony offenses of varying degrees. The crime of aggravated assault has been described by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as “the functional equivalent of a murder in which, for some reason, death fails to occur.” Com. v. O’Hanlon, 653 A.2d 616, 618 (Pa. 1995).
Unfortunately, here in State College, Pennsylvania, assault charges are all too common. Young college students are regularly charged with alcohol-fueled assaults for participating in physical altercations that often take place in and around State College bars or at local parties. The notion that “boys will be boys” rarely, if ever, carries the day, and it is not uncommon for all participants in a fight that takes place on the heavily policed streets of State College to be arrested and charged with assault.
However, all too often, even individuals who mutually agreed to participate in a fight or scuffle are overcharged by law enforcement and find themselves facing misdemeanor second-degree assault or even felony aggravated assault charges.
In such a case, it is important to have an experienced State College criminal defense attorney review your case, analyze the facts and, at the very least, ensure that the charges faced by a defendant are appropriate under the circumstances. Additionally, there are many defenses available as it often happens that an unwilling participant — sometimes even a victim of an assault — is charged as a perpetrator. In such cases, the law office of Rehmeyer & Allatt can work to have charges dismissed or, argue self-defense or defense of others at trial.