Many people in Berks County will head to area bars for happy hour after work, to watch the big game, or simply to meet up with friends. However, alcohol sometimes gets the best of us, fueling arguments between two friends or even strangers. Sometimes these arguments become heated, leading to a physical altercation and criminal charges of assault.

Pennsylvania law recognizes two types of assault: simple assault and aggravated assault. The following overview will touch on these two types of assault. However, it does not provide legal advice, so those who are facing the criminal justice system on assault charges will want to contact a criminal defense attorney for assistance.

What constitutes simple assault?

In a case of simple assault, the prosecution must prove one of four situations beyond a reasonable doubt. One is that the accused either intentionally, knowingly or recklessly tried to physically hurt someone. Another is that the accused negligently hurt someone with a deadly weapon. A third is that the accused tried to use physical menace to scare someone with the threat of imminent serious physical harm. Finally, simple assault may occur if the accused caused a police officer or correctional system official to be pierced with a hypodermic needle during the search or arrest process.

What constitutes aggravated assault?

Aggravated assault is a more serious crime than simple assault. In the case of aggravated assault, the prosecution must prove one of the following situations beyond a reasonable doubt. One is that the accused caused another to suffer serious physical harm with an extreme indifference to human life. Another is that the accused either caused or attempted to cause serious physical harm to a police officer, firefighter or parole officer, or tried to put one of the above-mentioned individuals in fear that they will suffer serious physical harm. A third is if the accused used tear gas, noxious gas or a stun gun against one of the aforementioned individuals in the course of the individual’s job duties. Finally, aggravated assault may occur if the accused tried to physical harm a teacher or intentionally and knowing seriously physically injured a teacher while that teacher was working at the school.

Defending yourself against assault charges

It is important to note that while assault must be knowing and intentional, voluntary intoxication cannot serve as a defense against assault charges. Ultimately, those facing assault charges will want to seek legal help. Especially for first time offenders, the criminal justice system can be frightening and confusing. Strong advocacy by a criminal defense attorney can help those accused of assault understand the charges they face and assist in formulating a solid defense strategy.