Our Simple Assault Defense Attorneys Represent Defendants in Allentown, Bethlehem & Easton and throughout the Greater Lehigh Valley
Our Simple Assault Lawyers & Criminal Defense Attorneys have represented numerous individuals charged with Simple Assault in Easton, Allentown, Bethlehem & the Greater Lehigh Valley. We have successfully had Lehigh & Northampton County Simple Assault charges dismissed or downgraded.
In Pennsylvania, simple assault is a misdemeanor crime. Although unlikely, the sentence for simple assault in the Lehigh Valley can reach up to 5 years in jail or prison. Our Simple Assault Lawyers have beaten Simple Assault cases in both Lehigh County & Northampton County.
Unfortunately, Lehigh Valley simple assault charges are often the result of police misunderstandings. In many simple assault cases a person who was not even responsible for starting the fight is charged with the simple assault. Since police often arrive at a fight after it has already started or ended, angry spouses, girlfriends, or prejudiced onlookers can wrongly convince police to arrest you, even though you were not at fault.
Our Simple Assault Lawyers & Criminal Defense Attorneys in Easton, Pennsylvania are here to help. Call now if you, or a loved one, are facing Simple Assault charges in Northampton County or Lehigh County.
When at all possible we want to be involved in a Lehigh or Northampton County Simple Assault case as early as possible. As time passes, memories fade or distort and witnesses may become harder and harder to track down. Security camera footage in Allentown, Bethlehem or Easton may be overwritten and cell phone records may be destroyed. The earlier our Simple Assault Lawyers are contacted, the better outcome our Criminal Defense Attorneys can achieve. When at all possible, our defense attorneys prefer to be involved in an Simple Assault case, prior to the Preliminary Hearing in order to maximize our ability to defend against the Simple Assault charges.
Simple Assault – 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2701
(a) Offense defined.–A person is guilty of assault if he:
(1) attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or
recklessly causes bodily injury to another;
(2) negligently causes bodily injury to another with a
(3) attempts by physical menace to put another in fear
of imminent serious bodily injury; or
(4) conceals or attempts to conceal a hypodermic needle
on his person and intentionally or knowingly penetrates 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.
(b) Grading.–Simple assault is a misdemeanor of the second
degree unless committed:
(1) in a fight or scuffle entered into by mutual
consent, in which case it is a misdemeanor of the third
(2) against a child under 12 years of age by an adult 21
years of age or older, in which case it is a misdemeanor of
the first degree.
Intra-Family fights & Simple Assault Law
Altercations between two juvenile members or the same family, even when they become less than civil, are usually too trivial to be target of the crime code. In the absence of criminal or malicious intent, such intra-family spats will not support criminal prosecution. Interest of J.L., 327 Pa. Super. 175, 475 A.2d 156 (1984)
Self Defense & Simple Assault Law
If a person has a legitimate fear of being struck by another he may strike first in order to avoid such injury. Comm. v. Witherspoon, 730 A.2d 496 (Pa. Super. 1999)
If victim starts the fight and the defendant uses excessive force in repelling the attack the fight shall be considered one of mutual consent and should be as a 3rd degree misdemeanor rather than a 2nd degree misdemeanor. Comm. v. Coleman, 344 Pa. Super. 481, 496 A.2d 1207 (1985)
A person may not be held criminally liable when (s)he unintentionally, even recklessly or negligently, injures an innocent bystander while using justifiable force in self defense. Comm. v. Fowlin, 551 Pa. 414, 710 A.2d 1130 (1998)
PFA contempt and Double Jeopardy & Simple Assault Law
If a person is convicted of criminal contempt for violating a PFA he cannot be convicted simple assault if the same actions give rise to both charges. U.S. v. Dixon & Foster, 113 S.Ct. 2849 (US 1993); Comm. v. Decker, 445 Pa. Super. 101, 664 A.2d 1028(1995)
A simple assault case begins with the filing of the charging paperwork in the District Court. The District Court serves as the gatekeeper for the Court or Common Pleas and generally does not decide guilt or innocence nor does it impose sentences in Misdemeanor and Felony cases.
If the charges are domestic violence related or simple assaults observed by a law enforcement officer, the Magisterial District Judge (MDJ) will issue an arrest warrant. For all other charges the MDJ will merely mail a summons to appear for a preliminary hearing or summary trial.
The Preliminary Arraignment is the first court date a defendant must attend in a simple assault case. At the preliminary Arraignment the MDJ will set bail. If an arrest warrant has issued, this will occur prior to the preliminary hearing. If a preliminary hearing was scheduled via summons, the Preliminary Arraignment will occur simultaneous to the Preliminary Hearing.
Preliminary Hearings are the first opportunity for the Defense to test the evidence the Commonwealth plans to bring against them in a simple assault case. While the burden the Commonwealth must meet at this level is very low, it is a critical stage of the defense because it allows for the opportunity to lay the strategic groundwork that may make or break a defense in the upper courts. You should never waive a preliminary hearing in a simple assault case without a simple assault attorney.
Formal Arraignment is the first court appearance in the Court of Common Pleas. The purpose of the Formal Arraignment is to inform defendants of certain rights they have and deadlines in their simple assault case. If negotiations have led to a favorable plea agreement in your case, a plea may be entered at this court date
Depending on the individual case, any of the following types of court hearings may occur after preliminary arraignment but before a trial:
• Diversionary Program Hearing – Diversionary Programs allow defendants a path through the criminal justice system that does not risk the chance of simple assault conviction. First time offenders may be eligible for the ARD program. Other defendant’s may be eligible for Mental Health Court regardless of whether they have prior convictions.
• Habeas Corpus Hearing – A Habeas Corpus hearing, like a preliminary hearing, may be held to contest the sufficiency of the Commonwealth’s simple assault evidence prior to a trial.
• Suppression Hearing – A suppression hearing may be held to have evidence illegally obtained by the police ruled inadmissible at a simple assault trial in Easton, Allentown or Bethlehem.
• Guilty Plea – If the Commonwealth and the defendant agree upon the terms of a guilty plea, a plea may occur at any time throughout the criminal court process
In most simple assault trials, cases proceed in front of a jury. However, sometimes it may be best to opt for a non-jury trial. Non-jury trials are most often used when the nature of the crime is one that risks a jury finding someone guilty based upon emotion rather than facts.
If the case precedes as a jury trial the judge, the prosecutor and the defense attorney will question potential jurors. Each side, without any justification, can eliminate a certain number of jurors. Another number of potential jurors can be eliminated based on a list of legal justifications. Eventually, through this process, a jury is reached and seated for trial.
After a jury is chosen, the trial begins with opening statements.
Because the government has the burden of proof, the prosecutor is allowed to make his opening statement first. The defense will then have the option of making an opening statement or waiting until after the prosecution rests its case.
Defense lawyers usually opt to deliver opening statements immediately after the prosecution so that jurors can examine the government’s evidence under the defense’s theory of the case.
After the opening statement(s), each side has the opportunity to present its case.
The prosecution must present its case first. During this time the government presents evidence and elicits testimony from its witnesses. The defense is entitled to cross-examine each witness that the government calls. The prosecution must establish each charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
When the prosecution rests, the defense presents evidence to the jury. If the prosecution’s case is weak, the defense may argue to have the case dismissed at this point. If the motion is denied the defense will go forwards with its case.
After the prosecution and criminal defense lawyer have rested their case, each side will have the opportunity to make a closing argument. The defense lawyer delivers the first argument and the prosecution follows him or her.
The defendant may testify as a witness in his or her defense. However, doing so opens the door for the prosecution to attempt to discredit the witness and in many cases allows the prosecution to bring up harmful information from the defendant’s past.
While the prosecution must establish its case beyond a reasonable doubt, the defense has no obligation to present a case. When advantageous the defense may rely solely upon raising a reasonable doubt in the prosecution’s case.
After the closing arguments, the judge will read specific instructions to the jury outlining the legal standards necessary to decide if the defendant is to be found guilty or not guilty. The jury then leaves the courtroom to deliberate the case.
If all jurors cannot reach a unanimous decision, the jury is “hung,” and the case may be dismissed or it may be tried in front of a new jury.
If you need any legal assistance in the Lehigh Valley, please feel free to contact us. Our Easton Law Office will get back to you within one business day. Or, just call us now.
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