It is virtually impossible these days to look through social media without seeing someone having a conflict with another person. After all, filmed dramatic confrontations often go viral, turning whoever posts them into internet celebrities. You may not have thought much about the criminal charges that may stem from these altercations, though.
In the Keystone State, an individual may be criminally liable for simple assault if he or she intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily harm to another person. Furthermore, if a person puts another in fear of imminent bodily harm, he or she may also face criminal charges.
A low injury threshold
It is important to realize serious bodily harm is not necessary for an assault charge in Pennsylvania. Even inflicting seemingly minor bodily injuries likely runs afoul of state law. If you scratch, bruise or even redden someone’s skin, you may potentially satisfy the bodily injury element of a simple assault charge.
You do not always have to make physical contact, however, to be charged with a crime. If an individual reasonably believes bodily harm is imminent, you may be in trouble. Pulling back your fist, lunging forward or threatening physical harm may be enough to make someone believe bodily harm is imminent.
State of mind
Pennsylvania’s prohibition on assault requires intentional, knowing or reckless conduct. For conduct to be intentional, you must mean for the assault to happen. For example, if you move your hand toward someone’s face, you probably intend to hit the person.
Knowing conduct simply means you understand the consequences of what you are doing. If you push someone and he falls forward, you are probably acting knowingly. Recklessness, by contrast, means you have some disregard for the well-being of others. Throwing a rock into a crowd is reckless behavior.
Because Pennsylvania law criminalizes both physical and nonphysical assault, it is important to plan your defense carefully.