Award-Winning Philadelphia Simple Assault Lawyers Fighting for You
We Can Help With Simple Assault Charges in Philadelphia
The Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers of Goldstein Mehta LLC will fight for your rights at trial or on appeal. Our attorneys have successfully defended thousands of cases in the Philadelphia Municipal Court and the surrounding counties, and we can help with all types of assault charges in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We have defended clients who are charged with Simple Assault in preliminary hearings, pre-trial motions hearings, and at trial. Our experienced, understanding defense attorneys have won full acquittals at trial in assault cases. If you are facing criminal charges, we will put our high level of skill and experience to work for you and always fight for the best possible result.
Pennsylvania Simple Assault Laws
Simple Assault is a less serious form of assault and is graded as a misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to two years in prison. Although it is a misdemeanor and therefore less serious than a felony, it is still a serious charge because it is a violent crime and could be punished with jail time.
The charge requires the Commonwealth to show that the defendant knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly caused or attempted to cause bodily injury. Bodily injury is something more than slight pain. Instead, it is substantial pain or physical impairment. Therefore, punching someone in the face is likely going to be a Simple Assault, but merely pushing someone may not rise to that level if the person does not suffer any injuries.
Misdemeanor Charges in Philadelphia Municipal Court
If Simple Assault is the most serious charge that the defendant is facing and the defendant has been charged in Philadelphia, then the case will be heard in the Philadelphia Municipal Court by a judge instead of a jury. In Philadelphia, all crimes punishable by five years or less are initially heard in Philadelphia Municipal Court. If the judge convicts the defendant and the defendant wishes to appeal, the defendant is always entitled to a brand new, de novo trial in the Court of Common Pleas either before a different judge or a jury. Therefore, the prosecution would actually have to convinct the defendant at trial twice before the conviction would become final.
What Happens in a Municipal Court Trial?
Municipal Court trials are very similar to trials in the Court of Common Pleas, and the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence apply in both courts. However, there are a number of important differences.
First, in a Municipal Court trial, the defendant does not have the right to a jury. However, if the Municipal Court judge finds the defendant guilty, the defendant can automatically appeal for a trial de novo in the Court of Common Pleas before a different, higher-ranking judge or before a jury. At the trial de novo, the defendant gets a brand new trial as if the trial in the lower court never happened, and the defendant may choose to have the case decided by a Common Pleas judge or by a jury. The transcripts from the Municipal Court trial may still be used to impeach the witnesses at the trial in the Court of Common Pleas, so in a way, the Municipal Court trial becomes the equivalent of a preliminary hearing.
- If the defendant is convicted after a trial in the Court of Common Pleas, there is no right to an automatic new trial. Instead, the defendant is limited to appealing the conviction to the Superior Court and arguing that some sort of legal error occurred during the lower court proceedings.
- Second, although the rules of evidence apply, the Municipal Court has its own unique formal and informal customs and rules of procedure. The proceedings are a little bit more informal, the judges typically do not follow the sentencing guidelines after a conviction as they do in the Court of Common Pleas, and the speedy trial rules are much stricter. The speedy trial rules are particularly important in the Municipal Court because the prosecution has only 180 days to bring the defendant to trial. If the prosecution fails to do so, then the case could be dismissed under Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 1013.
Should I appeal from a Municipal Court Conviction?
Most criminal defendants do not appeal cases from the Municipal Court to the Common Pleas Court because Common Pleas judges tend to give tougher sentences following a conviction, but if the defendant wishes to fight the case, then the Commonwealth must convict the defendant twice in order to obtain a final conviction. This is because a defendant who has been convicted in the Municipal Court has the right to a trial de novo in the Court of Common Pleas. The Commonwealth must first convict the defendant in the Municipal Court and then again in the Court of Common Pleas if the defendant demands a new trial.
Defenses in Simple Assault Cases
Simple Assault has many of the same defenses as Aggravated Assault. In previous cases, our criminal defense attorneys have been successful in arguing defenses including:
- Self-defense - It is an absolute defense to assault charges that the defendant was acting in self-defense. If we can show that the complainant threw the first punch or posed an imminent threat of bodily injury to the defendant, then we may be able to convince the judge that the defendant was justified in fighting back and therefore Not Guilty.
- Defense of Others - It is also an absolute defense if the defendant was acting in defense of someone else. If someone attacks your friend, you may be justified in helping your friend fend that person off. That would be a defense to Simple Assault.
- Sufficiency - The Commonwealth must prove each element of the Simple Assault statute beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction. For example, if the Commonwealth cannot show that the complainant actually suffered bodily injury, it may be difficult for the Commonwealth to obtain a conviction because the statute requires that the defendant cause or attempt to cause bodily injury. If the defendant merely pushed someone and the person did not suffer any injuries, then the defendant is probably not guilty of Simple Assault.
- Gradation - There is a special Simple Assault charge which is graded as a Misdemeanor of the third degree. Normally, it is a misdemeanor of the third agree in situations where the parties to the fight actually agreed to fight and no one was seriously injured. Therefore, if prosecutors bring misdemeanor of the second degree charges against the defendant, but we can show that the defendant and complainant entered into a mutual fight, then the charges would be reduced to a misdemeanor of the third degree. Under Pennsylvania's new expungement law, Simple Assault can be partially expunged when it is graded as a misdemeanor of the third degree. The new law provides for limited access orders for many third degree and ungraded misdemeanors. It cannot be expunged when it is graded as a misdemeanor of the second degree.
Case Study - Commonwealth v. J.B. – Full NOT GUILTY Verdict in Domestic Simple Assault Case
Prosecutors charged J.B. with Simple Assault and related charges in the Philadelphia Municipal Court for allegedly assaulting an ex-girlfriend. J.B. was already on probation for similar charges, so his probation officer took him into custody on the strength of a probation detainer for the potential violation of probation. J.B. retained Goldstein Mehta LLC, and we immediately filed a Motion to Lift the Detainer with J.B.'s back judge. We put together an extensive motion which clearly demonstrated J.B.'s exemplary work record, successful compliance with the requirements of his probation other than the pending charges, and overwhelming family and community support. After seeing the motion, the probation judge scheduled a hearing within a week and lifted the probation detainer, thereby allowing J.B. to return to work and fight the case from the street.
Attorney Goldstein obtained a full acquittal for J.B. at trial in the Municipal Court. The testimony of the complaining witness at trial was very different from the story that she had told police when she gave a statement after the alleged incident. Attorney Goldstein was able to highlight these discrepencies for the trial judge through the use of cross-examination, and Attorney Goldstein also showed that the complainant had a significant motive to fabricate the allegations out of jealousy. The Municipal Court Judge ultimately concluded that the complainant's testimony simply could not be believed. This was particularly true in light of the complainant's lack of visible injuries and the fantastical nature of her allegations. Accordingly, our defense attorneys successfully had the client's probation detainer lifted and obained a Not Guilty verdict at trial.
Every case is different, but we were able to obtain a successful outcome in this case by working hard, investigating the case, and thoroughly preparing for trial. If you retain us for your case, we will fight to obtain a similar winning result for you.
Contact a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney for Help with Simple Assault Charges in Pennsylvania and New Jersey
We have successfully defended many clients charged with all types of assault. The most important thing to do if you are facing any criminal charges is act quickly. Delay often leads to evidence being lost or destroyed, and video surveillance may be deleted in as little as 24 hours. If you are charged with any type of assault in Philadelphia or the surrounding counties, call the Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers of Goldstein Mehta LLC at 215-253-6586 for a complimentary 15-minute criminal defense strategy session.