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Assault and Domestic Violence

Simple Assault

This crime occurs when an individual causes or attempts to cause bodily injury to another individual. One does not have to be injured in order for simple assault to be charged and the charge can be proven if one of the following mindsets are met:

  • Attempts to cause bodily injury to another individual. The injury could be as little as a scratch or a bruise to qualify as an assault.
  • Intentionally cause injury to another.
  • Recklessly causes bodily injury to another.
  • Negligently causes bodily injury are using a deadly weapon.
  • Put someone in a fear of serious bodily injury.

Simple assault is typically a misdemeanor of the second degree and can be punishable by imprisonment of up to two years.

Common defenses to assault charges

  • Self Defense: this is known as a “Justification defense” which means that your actions in breaking the law are justified and excused. If you were protecting yourself from imminent serious injury, and your actions were reasonable, this defense may be available to you.
  • Defense of Others: This defense may be available to you if your actions were to protect another individual from being injured.
Domestic Assault

This offense occurs when an assault occurs to a spouse, ex-spouse, family member, partner, or significant other and is taken very seriously by the Commonwealth. In many situations, the police do not have any discretion and must make the arrest if they are told that a Domestic Violence assault occurred and they observe an injury to the alleged victim.

The consequences of getting arrested for domestic violence are severe. Arraignment usually occurs immediately and bail is set by the District Justice. If you cannot post bail, then you are immediately taken to the county prison where you must remain until bail is posted or the case concludes. As a condition of bail you can be excluded from your home. Additionally, you may not be permitted to see your family members including your spouse or children while the case is ongoing. You may be ordered to surrender any firearms while the case is pending and if you are convicted, you will forfeit your right to own a firearm for life. If you are found guilty of Domestic Assault, you would be faced with a permanent criminal record, potential jail time, large fines and other requirements such as mandatory anger management and/or alcohol awareness classes.

In many Domestic Violence situations, the police have the alleged victim prepare a written, signed statement about what occurred in the event the victim changes his or her mind by the time the court hearing occurs. This happens frequently when spouses attempt to reconcile and the victim spouse does not wish to testify. However, in Pennsylvania, it is not up to the victim to decide whether or not to testify or to drop charges, and spousal privilege not to testify does not apply in these cases, so the victim may be forced to testify against his or her spouse or family member.

It is extremely important that if you are arrested for domestic violence, that you contact an experienced local attorney immediately to begin working on your defense. Do not speak with the police without an attorney present. Do not attempt to contact the alleged victim as you could be facing bail revocation or more serious charges such as witness intimidation.

In some situations, your lawyer may recommend that you immediately get into anger management treatment and/or alcohol counseling if alcohol was involved. Many times, if the defendant has received treatment, the district attorney in the sentencing judge will usually take that into consideration when determining the appropriate punishment if convicted.

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is a much more serious form of simple assault and is graded as a felony of the first or second degree. Aggravated assault occurs when there is serious bodily injury as a result of the assault, or if the assault occurred with a weapon.

Aggravated assault can also occur when a police officer is alleged to have been assaulted. In this situation the injury does not matter and it is automatically a felony. The same is true for an assault on certain members of a class, such as teachers, firefighters and probation officers, among others.

There are defenses to aggravated assault such as self-defense, or defense of others and you should contact an experienced assault attorney immediately as conviction can lead to substantial incarceration.

Other common Assault-related offenses:

Recklessly Endangering Another Person occurs when an individual recklessly places another in danger of death or serious injury. It is a Misdemeanor of the second degree and can be punishable by up to two years incarceration.

Terroristic Threats occurs when an individual communicates a threat to commit any crime of violence with the intention of terrorizing another individual. The threat can be either directly made to an individual or indirectly made (through a 3rd party, social media post, etc.).

It is a Misdemeanor of the first degree and is punishable by up to five years incarceration. The most common defense for a charge of Terrorostic Threats is known as “Transitory Anger” in that the alleged threat was said in the “heat of the moment” and that there was no real intention that the threat would be carried out.

Stalking occurs when an individual repeatedly communicates, commits acts, or engages in a course of conduct which puts another in fear or injury or causes emotional distress. It is a misdemeanor of the first degree and carries with it a maximum of 5 years incarceration.

Harassment

The crime of Harassment is typically charged along with an assault charge. It is a lesser form of assault and is basically a “unwanted contact” which includes striking, shoving, or otherwise subjecting another person to physical contact. It is a lesser included offense of assault and is usually graded as a summary offense. A summary offense is technically an offense that does not rise to the level of a crime and is punishable by either fines or up to 90 days in prison. In many cases, especially cases involving domestic assault where the parties reconcile, there are situations where the prosecutor may drop the criminal charges in exchange for a guilty plea to a lesser summary offense. In this situation, you would technically not be convicted of a criminal act, but you may be required to go through domestic violence probation. This means you would have a probation officer and may be required to attend classes such as anger management and/or alcohol counseling, but you would not technically be convicted of a crime in this scenario.

No matter what assault charge you are charged with, you should immediately contact an experienced, local defense attorney to assist you. Local attorneys are more knowledgeable about the local court system and would be aware of any special programs that might be available to you. Call the attorneys at Ellis B. Klein & Associates for a free consultation. We gladly talk to potential clients over the phone, or in person if you prefer, for free. We would be happy to answer all of your questions and guide you in the right direction so you can make an informed decision about choosing a defense attorney who is right for you. Call us at 800-536-0501 immediately for a free consultation.

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