Involuntary Manslaughter vs. Aggravated Assault: The differences

The recent Penn State fraternity death case has sparked a lot of questions from our clients and our online readers about these 2 criminal charges in Pennsylvania. While our law firm is not currently involved in the defense of this matter in Centre County, PA, I wanted to take some time to discuss the elements of these offenses.   Remember if you or a friend is charged with a crime, regardless of its severity, you must understand the elements of those charges. It’s equally important to understand that the prosecution (assistant district attorney – ADA) must establish each one of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt.   Regardless of whether its judge trial or a jury trial, the burden is always on the prosecution and never the defense!

Involuntary Manslaughter

When people here the word manslaughter, it conjures up the images of death and this is normal. While one of the elements of this criminal charge is the death of another, this charge is far less serious than aggravated assault in Pennsylvania. Involuntary Manslaughter is graded as a misdemeanor of the first degree in Pennsylvania unless it involves the death of child (then it’s a felony of the second degree). If a person is charged with involuntary manslaughter, the prosecution must establish the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

The Elements

“As a direct result of the doing of an unlawful act in a reckless or grossly negligent manner, or the doing of a lawful act in a reckless or grossly negligent manner, the Defendant causes the death of another person. See Title 18 § 2504.”

Aggravated Assault

Unlike involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, regardless of its severity is graded as felony offense in Pennsylvania. A lesser included offense of this charge is simple assault, which is graded as misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. The degree of its severity

of the aggravated assault charge is based on severity of the victim’s injury and the person’s status (police officer, firefighter, EMS teacher). There is major difference between these two level of felony offenses.

The maximum penalty for a felony of the first degree is 20 years and the sentencing guidelines for even a first time offender are 36-54 months in state prison. The maximum penalty for a felony of the second degree is 10 years and the sentencing guidelines for a first time offender are as low as 3-12 months in county jail.

If a person is charged with aggravated assault, the prosecution must establish one of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Elements

  • The Defendant attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another, or causes such injury intentionally, knowingly or recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life (Felony of the First Degree)
  • The Defendant attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes serious bodily injury to any of the officers, agents, employees or other enumerated persons or to an employee of an agency, company or other entity engaged in public transportation, while in the performance of duty; (Felony of the First Degree)
  • The Defendant attempts to cause or intentionally or knowingly causes bodily injury to certain officers, agents, employees or other persons (enumerated persons) in the performance of duty (Felony of the Second Degree)
  • The Defendant attempts to cause or intentionally or knowingly causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon (Felony of the Second Degree)
  • The Defendant attempts to cause or intentionally or knowingly causes bodily injury to a teaching staff member, school board member or other employee, including a student employee, of any elementary or secondary publicly-funded educational institution, any elementary or secondary private school licensed by the Department of Education or any elementary or secondary parochial school while acting in the scope of his or her employment or because of his or her employment relationship to the school (Felony of the Second Degree)
  • The Defendant attempts by physical menace to put any of the officers, agents, employees or other persons enumerated in subsection (c), while in the performance of duty, in fear of imminent serious bodily injury (Felony of the Second Degree)
  • The Defendant attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to a child less than six years of age, by a person 18 years of age or older (Felony of the Second Degree)
  • The Defendant attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes serious bodily injury to a child less than 13 years of age, by a person 18 years of age or older (Felony of the First Degree)

Conclusion

If you’re charged with a criminal offense in Pennsylvania, you need to understand the elements of the offense before making a decision on how to proceed. For more information on criminal defense strategies, I encourage you to visit my free download section of the website. I also encourage you to keep reading my blog because our firm is always putting out new information that answers questions from our readers.

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