Assault Charges in New Jersey: What You Need to Know
Assault charges are common, but that doesn’t mean they easy to prove. Many cases involving assault arise from confusing situations, where tempers were running high. The circumstances surrounding any alleged assault are important and can spell the difference between acquittal and conviction. If you’ve been charged with assault, you need someone on your side who will protect your rights and help you get a fair result.
New Jersey criminal defense lawyer Lauren Wimmer can help you face your assault charges with dedicated, aggressive legal representation. To schedule a free consultation about your case and how we can help, contact Wimmer Criminal Defense Law at 215-712-1212 as soon as possible.
What Is Assault?
While most people have a general idea that assault charges tend to arise out of a violent incident, not many understand the nuances of the offense. In New Jersey, assault involves:
- Causing or attempting to cause bodily harm to another person; or
- Causing someone to fear that they are in imminent danger or serious bodily injury.
Most people consider assault to consist only of causing physical harm, so it is important to recognize that you can be charged with assault for trying to hurt them even though they weren’t actually harmed. In addition, threatening someone with serious injury can also lead to an assault charge. However, the person must be in fear of imminent bodily harm. Threatening to hurt someone over the phone “if I ever see you again” would likely not rise to the level of an assault charge.
Simple assault is a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey, which is analogous to a misdemeanor in other states. Under Section 2C:12-1(a), simple assault is defined as follows:
- Attempting to cause or purposely, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another person;
- Negligently causing bodily injury to another person with a deadly weapon; or
- Attempting by “physical menace” to put someone in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
Intentionally harming someone is obviously assault, but you can be charged with assault even if you did not intend to cause them harm. You can be charged with assault for recklessly or negligently causing injury to another person. Reckless behavior is when someone “consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk” that their actions will cause harm to another person. Negligent behavior is considered less severe and occurs when someone should have been aware that their actions carried a “substantial and unjustifiable risk” that their conduct would result in harm.
For example, if you were throwing rocks into a crowd and hurt someone, you could be charged with assault – you conscientiously ignored the risk that your actions could result in injury. However, if you caused injury with a deadly weapon note that the negligence standard will apply.
As the name implies, aggravated assault is a more serious charge than simple assault. Section 2C:12-1(b) defines aggravated assault as follows:
- Causing or attempting to cause serious bodily injury to another person, or recklessly causing injury while demonstrating an extreme indifference to the value of human life;
- Purposely or knowingly causing bodily injury to another person with a deadly weapon;
- Recklessly causing bodily injury to another person with a deadly weapon; or
- Knowingly pointing a firearm at another person regardless of whether you believe it to be loaded and while displaying an extreme indifference to the value of human life.
The statute goes on to define several situations where a simple assault can be charged as an aggravated assault. For example:
- Assaulting a firefighter, EMT, school employee, judge, or bus driver
- Causing harm to another person while fleeing a police officer
- Causing bodily harm to another person by starting a fire
Potential Penalties of a Simple Assault Conviction
As noted above, simple assault is a disorderly persons offense. If convicted, you face the following penalties:
- Up to 6 months in jail
- A fine of up to $1,000
If the assault occurred during a fight that both parties consented to, it is charged as a petty disorderly persons offense. This means that you will face the following penalties:
- Up to 30 days in jail
- A fine of $500
While simple assault is a low-level offense, any time in jail and fines can create hardship for you and your family. You will also have a criminal conviction on your record that could impact future opportunities.
Potential Penalties of an Aggravated Assault Conviction
Aggravated assault can be charged as a second, third, or fourth-degree crime, depending on the severity of the alleged assault. The penalties associated with aggravated assault are much more serious than simple assault, potentially involving years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.
- Fourth degree: Up to 18 months in prison and up to $10,000 in fines
- Third degree: Up to 5 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines
- Second degree: Anywhere from 5 to 10 years in prison and up to $150,000 in fines
Why You Should Hire an Attorney
If you have been charged with assault, your future is at stake. An experienced criminal defense lawyer in New Jersey can help you understand the charges against you and your options. They can evaluate the evidence against you, and more importantly, help you build a strong defense. Here are some of the defenses that may help you avoid conviction:
- Defense of another
- Defense of property
Your lawyer can also show that you were falsely accused, the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence, or that there was a mistake of fact that lead to the crime.
Charged with Assault in New Jersey? Call Our Office Today
Unfortunately, neither time nor the prosecution is on your side. If you’re facing assault charges, you need someone who can help you get a fair result. New Jersey assault defense lawyer Lauren Wimmer provides her clients with a skilled and aggressive legal defense to help them get the best possible result. Call us at 215-712-1212 or send us an email to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and how we can help.