You and your buddies have a few too many beers at the home opener. When the stadium crowd spills out into the streets, you end up exchanging words, and eventually fists, with another rowdy group. Next thing you know, an officer has arrested you for assault.

Although assault charges carry significant penalties in Pennsylvania, you may be eligible for a reduced sentence depending on the circumstances of your case.

What constitutes assault?

Simple assault occurs when a person harms or attempts to harm another person through reckless, knowing or intentional action. It could also involve negligent injury involving a weapon. Even if you do not successfully hit another person in a fight, simply taking a swing could result in a simple assault charge, which is a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania.

What are the degrees of assault?

In Pennsylvania, assault is a first-degree misdemeanor when it involves a child younger than 12 and an adult older than 21. This is also the charge when the situation involves serious bodily injury or a deadly weapon.

Most bar fights constitute second-degree or third-degree simple assault. Second-degree assault is an assault without the extenuating factors described above. When both parties instigate the fight, the charge is usually third-degree assault.

When a weapon is used with intent, the charge is aggravated assault. Anything that can cause injury, from a knife to a rock or baseball bat, can fall under the category of deadly weapon.

What are the penalties for an assault?

Possible consequences for simple assault are as follows:

  • Third-degree simple assault: Up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine
  • Second-degree simple assault: Up to two years in jail and a $5,000 fine
  • First-degree simple assault: Five years in jail and a $10,000 fine

If a night out goes too far, take steps to protect your legal rights when facing an assault charge. The penalties can significantly vary depending on the circumstances of your case.