When tempers flare and physical violence occurs, people don't always realize the ramifications of their actions. What many people may view as a simple bar fight, prosecutors may view as an assault with a deadly weapon.
Pennsylvania law defines different levels of "physical attacks" in terms of simple assault and aggravated assault. However, lingering behind as assault could be the crushing punishment of a deadly-weapon enhancement.
A deadly-weapon enhancement may apply to many crimes such as assault, robbery, theft, etc. A "deadly weapon" is defined as any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, or any device designed as a weapon and capable of producing death or serious bodily injury, or any other device or instrumentality which, in the manner in which it is used or intended to be used, is calculated or likely to produce death or serious bodily injury. Further, "serious bodily injury" is defined as bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or the protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.
Despite the common-sense definitions listed above, Pennsylvania courts have declared that certain objects such as BB guns, baseball bats, cars, forks, and tire irons may be considered deadly weapons in certain circumstances. Even where a victim wasn't injured, a deadly-weapon enhancement may apply.
The significance of a deadly-weapon enhancement lies in the sentencing judge's requirement to increase the amount of jail time for the underlying offense. For example, a person with no criminal history who has been found guilty of bank robbery (no injuries) would likely fall into the standard sentencing range of 6-14 months of imprisonment (for the minimum amount of time served in jail). However, if a bank robber pointed a gun (or BB gun, baseball bat, knife, etc.) at the bank teller, then the deadly-weapon enhancement could add 18-26 months to the minumum sentence. In simple terms, a deadly-weapon enhancement would likely double or triple an offender's jail time.
Pennsylvania case law expands the common-sense definition of which objects may be considered deadly weapons. Anger, intoxication, addiction or fear could cause a normally peaceful person to grab an object (a chair, glass bottle, rock etc.) and to strike an aggressive person. Even where someone thought he was defending himself (which must be "reasonable" under the circumstances), he could find himself sepnding many months in prison.
Fortunately, experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorneys can protect your liberty by fighting against a deadly-weapon enhancement and by eliminating it from the judge's consideration. Do not let a drunken mistake or a hot temper land you behind bars. For more questions about assault and deadly weapons call Rogan Law today.