What is the Difference Between a Simple Assault and Aggravated Assault in Philadelphia?

Data from the Pennsylvania State Police shows that in 2018 in Philadelphia County, there were an estimated 31,811 total reported cases of assault. The total population of Pennsylvania in 2017 exceeded 12.8 million people. During that year, there were more than 250,000 total crimes committed across the state. Roughly 40,000 of these cases were associated with violent crimes. The following chart provides a breakdown of the details:

Type of Violent Crime

Number in 2017









Males are more likely to be assaulted by strangers than females. Females tend to be assaulted by people they know including intimate partners; however, data suggests this disparity is changing.

Simple Assault (§2701)

This is a charge that may involve an attempt to create a bodily injury that is done “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly.” It may stem from negligence that leads to bodily injury when a deadly weapon is involved. It may occur by instilling fear in someone that serious bodily injury will occur as a result of menacing action.

The crime may be committed by purposefully concealing a hypodermic needle to pierce the body of those acting in certain occupational capacities. These include members of law enforcement, those currently working in a correctional or detention facility or psychiatric hospital. Simple assault is typically charged as a second-degree misdemeanor.

It may be a third-degree misdemeanor when involving parties that have chosen to engage in an altercation. The charge may be enhanced to a first-degree misdemeanor when committed by an adult (18 or older) against a child under the age of 12.

Aggravated Assault (§2702)

There are various ways that an aggravated assault offense may be committed. It may involve attempting or creating serious bodily injuries “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly under circumstances of extreme indifference to the value of human life.” Extreme indifference may be considered as significantly more excessive that negligence. The crime may involve the use of a deadly weapon, noxious gas, or stun gun device.

It may be committed by attempting to or creating serious bodily injuries to members of law enforcement, those working in a correctional or detention facility or psychiatric hospital. Aggravated assault may also involve creating serious bodily harm to those working in public transportation. This also applies to employees or board members of a school or someone otherwise associated with a type of publicly-funded institution.

Aggravated assault may be committed when an adult attempts to create bodily injuries to a child under the age of six or serious bodily injury to a child under the age of 13. This crime is charged as either a first or second-degree felony based on the circumstances.

Assaulting a Law Enforcement Officer (§2702.1)

This is an offense that is committed when someone intentionally causes bodily harm to a member of law enforcement while they are on-duty using a firearm. The offender must be aware that the victim is a member of law enforcement. This is a first-degree felony offense that has an enhanced maximum term of 40 years of imprisonment.

Defining Key Terms

To fully understand these crimes several terms must be defined as follows:

  • Bodily injury: A physical state that results in impairment or significant pain.
  • Serious bodily injury: A physical state that has a risk of being fatal. It may result in a permanent deformity or cause a bodily organ to become impaired.
  • Deadly weapon: It may be a firearm or other object that could cause serious bodily injury or death. It may be in the form of a firearm that is loaded or not loaded.

Offense Grading in Pennsylvania

  • A felony of the first degree: A maximum of a 20-year prison sentence may be imposed and a fine of up to $25,000
  • A felony of the second degree: A maximum of a 10-year prison sentence may be imposed and a fine of up to $25,000
  • A felony of the third degree: A maximum of a seven-year prison sentence may be imposed and a fine of up to $15,000
  • Misdemeanor of the first degree: A maximum of a five-year prison sentence may be imposed and a fine of up to $10,000
  • Misdemeanor of the second degree: A maximum of two years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000
  • Misdemeanor of the third degree: A maximum of one year of imprisonment and a fine of up to $2,000

Understanding Restitution

Courts may require offenders that create injuries or property damage to pay restitution to their victim(s). It may involve property obtained through theft or otherwise through some unlawful acts. It may involve property that has lost significant value stemming from a crime. Restitution may also be ordered when personal injuries are incurred.

Offenders that are placed on probation, parole or another form of community supervision may have restitution added to their list of conditions (requirements). Restitution may be ordered without regard to the economic resources that a defendant has. It may be ordered to be paid as a lump sum or through multiple payments. The amount of restitution to be paid is calculated by the district attorney or another agent designated by a county commissioner.

Common Defenses in These Cases

A seasoned defense lawyer will evaluate the specific evidence and circumstances to create an effective defense strategy. One of the most common defenses used in assault cases is self-defense. Pennsylvania law allows for the usage of reasonable force in situations where someone is facing potentially serious injuries or death.

People are also able to use force in certain circumstances to defend their home or other property. It is also possible to challenge the assertion that a weapon involved was a “deadly” weapon. Perhaps the defendant grabbed an object in the course of a struggle that does not satisfy the criteria to qualify as deadly?

Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer

Those who have recently been accused of serious crimes such as assault may face significant penalties. LLF Law Frim's Criminal Law Team are established defense attorneys that provides effective legal representation for clients in the Philadelphia area. You are encouraged to contact the office today at 888-535-3686 for an initial case consultation.

Contact Us Today!

The LLF Law Firm Team has decades of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the LLF Law Firm today! Our Criminal Defense Team will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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