Email or Call (215) 564-0644

    A Common Issue in Criminal Robbery Cases in Philadelphia – What is Serious Bodily Injury?

    By a Philadelphia criminal lawyer

    Robbery and related crimes like unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of drugs, drug dealing, etc., are very common in Philadelphia. This is true in both state court and federal court. Also, in federal court in Philadelphia (Eastern District of Pennsylvania), bank robbery charges are very common.

    In general, under Pennsylvania’s criminal robbery law, what separates robbery in the first degree from robbery in the second degree is whether the alleged victim suffered a serious injury. Robbery in the first degree usually requires theft plus a serious bodily injury (or threat of serious bodily injury). Robbery in the second degree usually requires theft plus a bodily injury (or threat of bodily injury). Click here to read more about robbery charges in Philadelphia.

    One of the most common issues in criminal state court robbery cases in Philadelphia is whether an injury constitutes “serious bodily injury” or “bodily injury.” Whether an injury which results from a robbery is serious or not will affect how the crime is ultimately graded, as a felony in the first degree or second degree.

    Criminal Robbery Charges in Philadelphia – What’s the Difference Between Serious Bodily Injury and Bodily Injury?

    What is Serious Bodily Injury?

    Serious bodily injury is defined under PA law (18 Pa.C.S. Section 2301) as bodily injury that creates a serious risk of death or causes serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of any bodily member or organ. In other words, the alleged victim must have suffered an injury that:

    1. results in a substantial risk of death,
    2. results in a permanent and serious disfigurement, or
    3. causes a long term loss or limitation of the use of a body part.

    Examples of serious bodily injuries include major broken bones or damage to internal organs. A gunshot or stab wound to the abdomen would probably qualify as a serious bodily injury to sustain a first degree robbery conviction.

    What is Bodily Injury?

    The definition of serious bodily injury is relatively clear cut. However, the definition of bodily injury is rather vague. Under Section 2301, bodily injury is defined as an injury which causes impairment of a physical condition or substantial pain. Courts in Philadelphia usually employ a commonsense approach when determining whether a given injury constitutes a bodily injury under section 2301.

    In 1997, the PA Superior Court in Commonwealth v. Wertelet found that the term bodily injury requires at least a serious interruption in one’s daily life, something more than an everyday, ordinary injury. As an example, the court found that seriously stubbing a toe which causes the nail to fall off does not amount to a bodily injury. In the Wertelet case, the issue was whether kicking an officer in the shin two times constituted bodily injury. The court found that it did not. Basically, the court held that pushing, shoving, slapping, hair pulling, elbowing, etc., without serious interruption in one’s daily life do not constitute bodily injury.

    When defending robbery charges in Philadelphia criminal cases, it is important to determine the nature and extent of the physical injuries. At trial, it is often necessary to cross examine the alleged victim to determine whether the injuries were serious, permanent, etc.


    • Pennsylvania Superior Court Strikes the Drug-Free School Zone Sentencing Law (December 03rd, 2014) In an opinion released yesterday, the Pennsylvania Superior Court struck down Pennsylvania’s drug-free school zone sentencing law, 18 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Section 6317. In Commonwealth v. Bizzel, the Superior Court held that the drug-free school zone law is unconstitutional in light of a 2013 United States Supreme Court mandate in …
    • Federal Sentences for Drug Dealing Convictions in Philadelphia (November 07th, 2014) Under U.S. federal sentencing laws, possession of a substantial amount of drugs with intent to deliver or manufacture almost always leads to a lengthy prison sentence. This is especially true in federal criminal cases involving repeat offenses and cases in which death or serious bodily injury occurs. Under the federal drug sentencing guidelines, repeat offenders …

    Philadelphia Criminal Lawyer – FREE CONSULTATIONS

    For legal help in your criminal case in Philadelphia, please call our office and ask for a free consultation. (215) 564-0644

    Disclaimer: This website does not create any attorney-client relationship or provide legal advice. Our lawyers provide legal advice only after accepting a case. It is imperative that any action taken is done on advice of counsel. Read full disclaimer below.

    David S. Nenner

    "Top Rated Criminal Defense Lawyer"

    MURDER, Att. Murder CHARGES – Negotiated Significantly Lower prison sentence (Feb. 2022, PHILA)

    Mr. Anderson faced murder and attempted murder charges after an incident in Northeast Philadelphia involving the shooting death of Anderson’s sister’s boyfriend and the boyfriend’s roommate who was shot 5 times and survived. The decedent had previously beaten the...


    The Commonwealth alleged that Mr. Shelton shot and seriously injured a male in a bar in North Philadelphia called Circles. There was video of the shooting which happened outside the bar. However, Mr. Nenner presented witnesses who testified that the person in the bar...


    Mr. Nenner's client was charged with multiple crimes (murder, conspiracy, aggravated assault, robbery, etc.) after a shooting death occurred at a gambling house in North Philadelphia. At trial, Mr. Nenner successfully presented a self-defense argument and convinced...


    Mr. Nenner’s client was charged with murder and gun charges in Philadelphia. The client was accused of shooting and killing another male on Arch Street near the 5600 block of Ithan Street in Philadelphia. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty after deliberating...

    Drug Possession Case – Motion to Suppress Granted

    Mr. Nenner presented evidence that to show that the traffic stop was a pretextual stop. The officer had no reason to pull the car over. The judge agreed and suppressed the evidence. As a result, the prosecution withdrew the charges.

    Drug Charges in Philadelphia PA State Court – Possession of a Controlled Substance

    In most criminal drug cases in Philadelphia, there are two common charges or offenses: Possession of a Controlled Substance and Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver. In addition to these drug charges, there are other drug related charges, such...

    Drug Charges in Philadelphia PA State Court – What is “Possession”

    Page last reviewed and updated: October 20, 2019 One of the most common types of criminal state (PA) cases in Philadelphia is possession of drugs. Possession of a Controlled Substance (PCS) and Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver (PWID) often...

    Pennsylvania Second Degree Murder (AKA: Felony Murder) Law

    Philadelphia criminal lawyer David S. Nenner discusses the current status of second degree murder law in Pennsylvania. This is also known as the felony murder rule. Get info about PA court decisions and the agency theory. Not every case of death during the commission of a felony will result in a second degree murder conviction in PA.

    Philadelphia Murder Cases – Police Investigation Tactics

    Questioning Police Officer Tactics in Philadelphia Murder Cases Within the last 10 years, there have been several murder Philadelphia criminal cases in which the accused individuals were acquitted of the crimes. In these cases, the individuals spent months, if not...

    Murder Charges in Pennsylvania – Murder Law in Pennsylvania

    An explanation of Pennsylvania murder laws including Section 2502. What is murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree and murder in the third degree. Get a summary of the definitions under Pennsylvania criminal law.