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Whether it was a tussle at your favorite bar, a dispute with a neighbor or an act of self-defense, if police arrested you on assault charges, you are likely concerned about what will happen next. However, when you learned that they intended to charge you with aggravated assault, you may have been confused and uncertain about how to proceed.

In Pennsylvania, a simple assault is typically a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances. It can include actually striking someone or merely threatening or intimidating someone. Aggravated assault is a charge far more serious than simple assault. A conviction for this offense can have life-long repercussions, and facing this situation without quality legal counsel may be a mistake.

The weapon

There are several differences between a simple assault and felony, or aggravated, assault. First is the use of a weapon. If your tussle at the bar was limited to you and another patron taking swings at each other, your charge would likely be a misdemeanor. However, if you pulled out a knife or gun, police may have felt that was sufficient to raise the charge to a felony.

Even if you did not pull the trigger or cut someone, the fear and intimidation of seeing you brandishing a weapon may have been enough to make reasonable people fear for their safety. Your actions with a weapon make a difference, too. For example, even a small knife can be deadly if held to someone’s throat. Your car can be a weapon if bystanders believe you will harm them with it.

The victim

At the bar, you and another person got into a fight. You did not pull a weapon or threaten to kill the other person, yet police charged you with aggravated assault. This could be because of the identity of the person you fought. You may face felony assault for injuring any of the following groups of people because of their positions:

  • Police officers, probation officers and others
  • Teachers or others in the education system
  • Agents of public offices, such as bus drivers
  • Firefighters and other first responders
  • Judges, attorneys and other officers of the court
  • Members of protected classes such as race, religion or sexual orientation

The important thing to know is that your actions against the other person must have been motivated by the position the person holds. For example, someone commits a felony by assaulting a police officer simply because of a hatred for law enforcement, attacking a teacher because of a dispute with the education system or striking an officer of the court because of a verdict that did not go his or her way. Injuries to children may also bring felony charges.

If you are facing felony charges, your future is in jeopardy. Seeking legal assistance at the earliest possible moment may improve your chances of a more positive outcome.