Your Guide to Understanding Simple Assault Charges and Penalties in Pennsylvania

Understanding simple assault charges in Pennsylvania can be anything but simple. They cover a wide range of crimes, and the penalties vary based on the circumstances. 

Did you know that you can be charged with simple assault in situations where you didn’t even injure anyone? Intent alone is enough to find yourself in legal trouble. Were you in a bar fight? Were you involved in a road rage incident? You might be charged with simple assault.

Most simple assault charges are considered to be misdemeanors of the second degree and fall under one of the following four categories:

  • attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another;
  • negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon;
  • attempts by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury; or
  • conceals or attempts to conceal a hypodermic needle on one’s person and intentionally or knowingly penetrating a law enforcement officer or an officer or an employee of a correctional institution, county jail or prison, detention facility, or mental hospital during the course of an arrest or any search of the person.

Were you charged with simple assault in Pennsylvania? Here’s what you need to know about the law.

When Is Simple Assault Not A Second-Degree Misdemeanor?

A simple assault is graded as a misdemeanor of the second degree except in some specific instances.

Simple assault is a misdemeanor of the first degree when the defendant is age eighteen or over and the alleged victim is a child who is under the age of twelve.

Simple assault is a misdemeanor of the third degree if the simple assault occurs in “a fight or scuffle” started with mutual consent. In other words, “let’s take this to the parking lot” is a third-degree misdemeanor. Approaching someone and sucker-punching them is still a misdemeanor of the second degree.

When Does Simple Assault Become Aggravated Assault?

Simple assault becomes aggravated assault when the crime occurs with “extreme indifference to the value of human life.” It also occurs when you knowingly use a deadly weapon or when a public officer (police, correctional, hospital, teacher, etc.) is the victim.

For example, a fistfight may begin as a simple assault. However, if one fighter falls and the other kicks them in the head repeatedly, then the person who kicks may be charged with aggravated assault. Kicking someone in the head shows “extreme indifference to the value of human life.”

All aggravated assaults are felonies of either the first degree or second degree..

What Are the Penalties for a Simple Assault Conviction?

In Pennsylvania, a misdemeanor of the second degree can result in up to two years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000.

If you are found guilty of the lesser misdemeanor of the third degree, you may face up to six months in county jail and a maximum fine of $2,500.

Misdemeanors of the first degree can result in up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.

Simple Assault Defense

In many cases, individuals charged with simple assault as a misdemeanor of the second-degree assert self-defense as their defenses.

Pennsylvania law allows you to fight back if attacked, and you can use force and intentionally cause injury if you believe it is “immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting [yourself] against the use of unlawful force.”

Presenting evidence of self-defense not only justifies your actions, but also places the additional burden on the prosecution to prove that you were not justified in using force in your own defense.

There are other case-specific strategies that may be applicable to your situation. An experienced criminal attorney will carefully examine the details of your case and create a defense strategy to give you the best possible outcome.  

Were You Charged with Simple Assault? Get the Help You Need Today!

Simple assault is a serious offense that comes along with serious consequences. If you’ve been charged with simple assault, you need the help of a criminal defense lawyer with a proven track record of success.. 

For a free consultation call 215-650-6500, email us at, or fill out the form below.


If you have a question about what to do when you've been charged with assault call now to speak with a lawyer.


If you've been charged with assault, please call 215-650-6500. An initial conversation with Attorney Stephen Stewart is free and confidential. There's no obligation to hire Mr. Stewart after a consultation.

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