When Does Simple Battery Become Aggravated Battery in Pennsylvania Law?

Though there are some differences between the definition of assault and battery under most state’s law, the two terms are frequently used interchangeably.  The main difference is found in charges that are classified as “simple”: A simple assault is the threat of violence, where no physical harm has actually been inflicted, while simple battery involves physically touching another person in a way that has been deemed offensive.  Once the charge converts to aggravated, the victim has actually suffered serious physical harm, and the penalties upon being convicted are much more severe. The law firm of Erik B. Jensen and Associates has extensive experience in representing those charged with both simple battery and aggravated battery. We will help you understand when simple battery becomes aggravated battery in Pennsylvania law, and provide you with a vigorous defense designed to help you as you face these charges.

Pennsylvania does not actually have a specific charge for battery. The criminal code incorporates both simple and aggravated battery into the laws written to address assault, so for this explanation we will address simple and aggravated assault laws.

  • Simple assault in Pennsylvania is a misdemeanor charge. It can be the threat of assault or creating the fear of assault in another person, as well as an actual physical action. Though there can be an injury suffered in a simple assault, there is no requirement that physical harm has occurred – it can include holding somebody down, grabbing their arm, or groping them, as well as punching them.There is also no distinction made as to whether or not the person who has been accused of simple assault used a weapon. A person who threatens another with a weapon without actually inflicting physical harm can be charged with simple assault. The penalties for simple assault can include a two-year jail term. The legal standard differs depending upon whether or not injury was actually inflicted, as if there was no specific injury the prosecution has to show that there was intent to cause injury.
  • Aggravated assault in Pennsylvania is considered a violent crime and carries a felony charge and serious penalties including ten or even twenty years in prison. The difference between aggravated assault and simple assault is that serious bodily injury is the result, and the difference between bodily injury and serious bodily injury is important: bodily injury is defined as “impairment of physical condition of substantial pain”, where serious bodily injury is defined as “bodily injury which creates substantial risk of death or which causes permanent disfigurement or impairment of bodily function.” A felony 2 aggravated assault may include the use of a deadly weapon that leads to injury. The legal standard for a felony 1 aggravated assault includes exhibiting an “extreme indifference to human life.” When aggravated assault is perpetrated against a police officer or public safety official the charges and penalties can be even more serious.

The consequences you face when you have been charged with either simple or aggravated assault under Pennsylvania law can be quite serious. Make sure that you are working with an attorney who has the knowledge and experience you need.