How Does Self-Defense Work in a Simple Assault Case?

simple assaultIn the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, simple assault is a crime against a person involving knowingly, intentionally and recklessly causing somebody bodily harm. You can also be charged with assault if you try to harm another person but fail in your efforts, or just cause the other person to be afraid that you were going to hurt them. Simple assault is considered a misdemeanor in the second degree (unless the victim is a child, in which case it is a misdemeanor in the first degree). A conviction can result in up to two years in jail.

The most common defense offered by those who are accused of simple assault is that of self-defense. The laws in Pennsylvania have made it clear that if you’re being attacked, you are under no obligation to submit or retreat. It is considered justifiable to fight back if you are using an equivalent level of force as the person that is attacking you. The law states that you can use force if you believe that it is “immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of unlawful force by such other person on the present occasion.” This is, however, not the case if you are the one who started the fight or assault in the first place.

If you’ve been accused of assault and you are going to claim that your actions were justified, that is what is known as an affirmative defense – you are actually admitting that you are guilty of having harmed the other person but saying that you were justified in having done so because you were simply protecting yourself. Using an affirmative defense against an assault charge shifts the burden of proof for the prosecution: instead of having to prove that you inflicted harm on the other person, they must prove that you were not justified in your actions. There may also be questions as to whether the actions that you have taken in your own self-defense were proportional to the threat that you faced, and whether the threat of harm that you faced was imminent.

Every episode of assault is different, particularly where self-defense is involved. If you have been charged with assault and would like to know more about your rights and the best way to move forward with your case, contact our office today to set up a convenient time to meet with one of our attorneys.