If you have been arrested and charged with assault in the state of New Jersey, you may face serious consequences such as prison time and significant fines if you are convicted. Understanding the different elements of both simple and aggravated assault can help you and your attorney come up with an effective way to defend against the charges you face.
Simple assault v. aggravated assault
In New Jersey, simple assault and aggravated assault are separate crimes, each with their own set of elements. Under N.J. Stat. 2C:12-1, a simple assault may have occurred if:
- The defendant attempted to cause bodily harm to another person or knowingly or recklessly causing bodily harm to another person;
- The defendant negligently harming another person with a deadly weapon; or
- The defendant used physical menace to attempt put another person in fear of bodily harm.
Simple assault in New Jersey is considered a disorderly persons offense, a misdemeanor that could result in up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
Aggravated assault is more serious than simple assault in that it typically involves significant or serious bodily injury and/or a deadly weapon. Aggravated assault can be classified as a second-degree, third-degree, or fourth-degree crime depending on the circumstances surrounding the assault. Here are some examples of aggravated assault:
- The defendant knowingly or recklessly caused or attempted to cause bodily injury to another person using a deadly weapon.
- The defendant pointed a loaded or unloaded firearm at someone else, under circumstances manifesting an ‘extreme indifference to the value of human life.’
- The defendant pointed or displayed a loaded or unloaded firearm or imitation firearm at a law enforcement officer, under circumstances manifesting an ‘extreme indifference to the value of human life.’
- The defendant committed simple assault against specific parties named in the N.J. statutes (E.g., healthcare worker, public or private school employee, EMT)
Aggravated assault is considered an indictable criminal offense, which, in New Jersey, is equivalent to a felony charge. A fourth-degree assault can result in three to five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, a third-degree assault can result in three to five years for $15,000 in fines, and a second-degree assault can result in five to ten years in prison and up to $150,000 in fines.
Both simple and aggravated assault convictions can result in severe consequences. A criminal defense attorney can diminish the arguments of the prosecution and point out inconsistencies in their theory of the case. Given the extremely high bar for the prosecution, any small semblance of doubt can mean the difference between guilty and not guilty.