Legislative Watch: Bill Creating New Felony Offenses for Assault Involving Children Heads to Governor

By: Dave Mueller, Criminal Defense Attorney

A new bill that would create much tougher sanctions for assault offenses where the alleged victim is a child is headed to the Governor for signature. Senate Bill 28, which has passed the house and the Senate, contains a range of new provisions dealing with child abuse and reporting. Among these is an amendment to the offense of Aggravated Assault, creating felony offenses for:

“[A]ttempt[ing] to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly caus[ing] bodily injury to a child less than six years of age, by a person 18 years of age or older”

OR

“[A]ttempt[ing] to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly caus[ing] serious bodily injury to a child less than 13 years of age, by a person 18 years of age or older.”

The first would be a felony of the 2nd degree, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. The second would be a felony of the 1st degree, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

If signed by the governor, this law significantly raises the stakes in assault cases where a child is alleged to be the victim. Under current law, intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing non-serious bodily injury to a person less than 12 years old is a misdemeanor offense. Also under current law, causing serious bodily injury by recklessness is a misdemeanor unless the circumstances evidence “extreme indifference to the value of human life.” This conduct would now be a felony if the alleged victim is less than 13 years old.

Although the bill has not become law yet, the legal nuances set out in the new sections again highlight the need for representation by an experienced criminal defense attorney in any case where assault is alleged. This becomes even more important where children are alleged to be involved. In addition to exploring all possible defenses, your attorney will understand how the law applies to the facts alleged in your case. Terms such as “serious bodily injury,” “recklessness” and “extreme indifference” have very specific legal definitions that could mean the difference between a minor charge and very serious felony. Only an experienced defense attorney can review the facts of your case and understand how those facts relate to the law.

If you have been charged with an assault-related crime, or any other criminal offense in Pennsylvania, contact us today for a no charge consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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