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The Three Levels of Assault: Everything You Need to Know

According to the Bureau of Justice, individuals charged with assault have one of the lowest conviction rates. In fact, these individuals are only convicted 45% of the time.

However, it’s important to note that these statistics are not broken down based on the levels of assault in question. In other words, those who are charged with aggravated assault may have a higher conviction rate than those charged with simple assault.

The law measures levels of assault by intent as well as resulting injuries. Whether or not the defendant used a weapon during the assault will also affect the case.

Read on to understand more about the three levels of assault.

What is Assault?

Assault is a legal term that refers to the unlawful attack or threat of attack against another person. While sexual assault and violent robbery are often broken down in similar ways, they are separate offenses from assault.

The injuries that result from an assault can range from nonexistent to nearly fatal. The level of injury plays a large part in determining the level of assault the defendant is charged with. If you know someone in Pennsylvania that needs legal help, please visit for a free consultation.

The Three Levels of Assault

Now that we’ve discussed the basic definition of assault, let’s break down the three levels of assault in US law.

1. Simple Assault

A simple assault refers to an attack or attempted attack without a weapon. If there was no bodily harm, the crime is a simple assault.

This includes the application of force to a person who has not given consent. It also includes the attempt or threat to apply force without consent.

It is important to examine what constitutes a “threat” in this context. Verbal assault, like sexual assault and violent robbery, is a separate offense from simple assault. In other words, if the threat was purely verbal, the defendant will not be charged with simple assault.

However, if the threat involved physical intimidation or a thwarted attempt to cause harm, it is a simple assault. In some instances, violating a protective order may constitute a simple assault. For example, if you have a restraining order against you due to past abuse, your presence is a perceived threat.

2. Assault Causing Bodily Harm

Some states do not separate simple assault from assault causing bodily harm. However, there is a difference and it will affect the outcome of your case.

Assault causing bodily harm involves an attack without a weapon resulting in a minor injury. Minor injuries include bruises and black eyes as well as cuts and scrapes. It may also include other injuries that resulted in hospitalization but only if that hospitalization lasted less than two days.

Do not confuse assault cases with personal injury claims. Personal injury claims are filed when one person’s negligence resulted in bodily harm. For a crime to be considered an assault, it must be clear that the defendant intentionally inflicted or threatened harm.

3. Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is the most serious of the three levels of assault. There are three types of aggravated assault.

The first is an attack or attempted attack with a weapon. Weapons can include guns, knives, or other objects that were being used to cause physical harm. Even if no injury occurred, an assault is aggravated if a weapon was used in the process.

The second is an attack without a weapon that resulted in serious physical injuries. These injuries include broken bones, internal injuries, wounds causing major blood loss, and more. They also include any injury that resulted in hospitalization lasting two or more days.

The third is a bit vaguer. Whether or not a weapon was used or an injury occurred, it is aggravated assault if the defendant also intended to commit another serious crime.

In other words, if the assault occurred with the intention of rape, murder, or, in some cases, robbery, it is aggravated assault. Note that if these intended crimes were achieved, then the defendant would receive a different charge.

Some states name the aggravating factor in the charge, such as “assault with a deadly weapon.”

Is Assault a Misdemeanor or a Felony?

The simple answer is both, depending on which level of assault you’ve committed.

There are three classes of misdemeanors.

A Class C misdemeanor is the least serious, involving the threat of assault without an injury. A Class B misdemeanor refers, very specifically, to assault that occurs during a sporting event. A Class A misdemeanor requires bodily harm.

Felonies are much more serious charges and, like misdemeanors, are broken into three categories.
Third-degree assault felonies involve an attack on someone while they are in their home. A second-degree assault felony is filed when the defendant is a repeat offender.

Third-degree and second-degree assault felonies may apply in cases of assault causing bodily harm. However, all aggravated assaults are first-degree assault felonies. If the defendant is convicted, they will receive a fine and a prison sentence of five or more years.

If you have been charged with assault, read this article to find out what’s to come and what you must do next.

Know the Law and Don’t Break It

Those who don’t understand the levels of assault may not understand that they’ve broken the law. It is important to note that you can be charged with assault regardless of your relationship to the victim. In other words, it is possible to legally assault a relative, partner, and so on.

Know the law so that you don’t break it.

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