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Understanding Pennsylvania's assault laws

Students getting back into the swing of things for the spring semester at Penn State also means plenty of late nights spent partying at campus bars. For some students, excessive alcohol consumption also means a loss of good judgment. If someone looks at you the wrong way, bumps in to you or says something mean, a minor slight could quickly turn into a fight. This is not uncommon to see on a Saturday night in State College.

While these fights can largely be attributed to alcohol and hormones, if you are arrested, you need to know that an assault charge in Pennsylvania can have serious consequences. It could mean time in jail.

Simple Vs. Aggravated Assault

While many people think the terms "assault" and "battery" are interchangeable, Pennsylvania law only uses the term assault. There are two types of assault: simple and aggravated.

Simple assault is a misdemeanor charge in which one attempts to cause or intentionally or recklessly causes bodily harm. It also could mean simply intending to put the fear of bodily harm into someone. This means that even if you don't lay a hand on the person, but you threaten them with harm, you could face simple assault charges.

Aggravated assault is a felony charge is largely defined the same way, except with the additional "extreme indifference to the value of human life." This type of charge typically results from inflicting serious injury or assaulting someone with a deadly weapon. It could also apply for assaulting a police officer.

These charges are serious

Even a "simple" assault charge is anything but. A conviction could mean time in jail, which could mean expulsion from school. Expulsion could mean you cannot graduate, which will make it much harder to get a job.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand the options for mounting a defense. These could include self defense, mistaken identity or a false account given by an alleged victim. If you are arrested, do not take these charges lightly. Protect your rights and contact an attorney.

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