In Pennsylvania, assaults are divided into two major categories: aggravated assault and simple assault. Generally, simple assault entails infliction of bodily injury, while aggravated assault entails either inflicting or attempting to inflict serious bodily injury. Bodily injury is usually something painful, but temporary, such as a black eye or bruises. Serious bodily injury entails a permanent injury or disfigurement or protracted loss, or an injury causing a substantial risk of death. A broken jaw or lost limb would qualify as a serious bodily injury. Naturally, the penalties for aggravated assault are far more severe than they are for simple assault. Aggravated assault is always a felony and simple assault is always a misdemeanor. Simple assault often results in probation, while an aggravated assault conviction almost always results in a period of incarceration.
There are certain situations where what would normally be considered a simple assault magically transforms into an aggravated assault. These are known as “status based aggravated assaults,” as it is the status of the victim which elevates a simple assault to aggravated assault. The status of the victim is based upon the victim’s job. These are jobs, which due to their very nature, put people at a greater risk of being attacked than members of the general population.
The most common protected class to be assaulted are police officers, for obvious reasons. They are the ones most likely to come into contact with irate, intoxicated or mentally ill people, or people, who simply have a nasty disposition. From what I have seen over the years, those who assault police officers almost always lose the fight, with or without back-up getting involved, and then face a felony aggravated assault charge on top of whatever they were going to be charged with in the first place.
Other protected classes include probation and parole officers, sheriffs and sheriff deputies, EMTs, and teachers and other school officials. EMTs, like police officers, are often assaulted by drunk or mentally ill people, and the irony is that EMTS are trying to help the very people who end up assaulting them. Parking enforcement officers are also included, and some studies indicate that they take more abuse from the public than any other job. I wonder why?
Not surprisingly, members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly who created the status based aggravated assault law included themselves as a protected class. They also included the governor, who signed the law, the prosecutors who enforce the law, the judges who impose sentences and preside over cases related to the status based aggravated assault law, and public defenders, who defend those charged with status-based aggravated assaults.
Interestingly enough, private defense attorneys like me are not a protected class, despite the fact that public defenders are protected. Then again, a private attorney can always decline a case, while public defenders are not so lucky. Public defenders must represent the most vile and dangerous defendants, because someone has to do it, and not surprisingly, some public defenders have been assaulted by sociopathic defendants.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense attorney in State College, PA, with extensive experience defending people charged with assault. He has never been assaulted by a client, even during his five year stint as a public defender. http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/Assault-Defense.shtml