Assault Law in New Jersey--Introduction:The New Jersey statute that defines assault is N.J.S. 2C:12-1. In that statute are over twenty distinct ways in which a person can be guilty of assault.
New Jersey classifies assaults as either simple assaults or aggravated assaults. Factors that influence the particular variety of aggravated assault include the seriousness of the injury; whether a weapon was involved; the mental state of the actor, that is, whether the was act committed purposely, knowingly, or recklessly; and the status of the victim. Status factors include whether the victim was a law enforcement officer, a fireman, an EMS provider, a school official, a judge; or whether the incident occurred at a sports event; and on and on and on. Any assault other than a “simple assault” is an “aggravated assault.” New Jersey defines some activities to be simple assaults and some to be aggravated assaults even when no injury at all occurred. No-injury assaults, both simple and aggravated, can occur even when no injury was even intended.
All aggravated assaults in New Jersey are crimes. However, depending on the particular factor or factors that elevate a simple assault into an aggravated assault, the aggravated assault can be an aggravated assault of the second degree, third degree, or fourth degree. The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice, in which criminal offenses such as assault are defined, does not use the term “felony” in its terminology. What New Jersey calls crimes are what other jurisdictions call felonies. Thus, for classification purposes, all aggravated assaults may be considered felonies. In most cases, they will also be considered “crimes of violence”.
One of the more serious types of aggravated assault that New Jersey defines is aggravated assault associated with serious bodily injury. Serious bodily injury aggravated assault is a crime of the second degree. This is perhaps the type of aggravated assault that one traditionally envisions when aggravated assault is mentioned without qualifiers.
Delineating all the types of aggravated assault would be a monstrous task. Moreover, were all the different types included, this page would likely put most readers to sleep. Accordingly, our discussion of aggravated assault limits itself to just the “traditional” type of aggravated assault, namely serious bodily injury aggravated assault. We emphasize, however, that ALL assault charges are serious. In that regard, we will also discuss simple assaults later on. We provide the full New Jersey assault statute elsewhere. Sexual assault is on a separate page.
Serious Bodily Injury Aggravated Assault in New Jersey:The relevant statute is N.J.S. 2C:12-1b(1). That statute specifies that a person is guilty of aggravated assault if he attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another, or causes such injury purposely or knowingly or, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, recklessly causes such injury. Under this statute, a defendant can be found guilty if he EITHER caused serious bodily injury to another OR attempted to cause serious bodily injury to another.
“Serious bodily injury” means bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.
The phrase “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life” does not focus on the state of mind of the actor but, rather, on the circumstances under which he acted. If, in light of all the evidence, the conduct of the defendant resulted in a probability as opposed to a mere possibility of serious bodily injury, then a jury can find that he acted under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.
In determining whether a defendant acted purposely or knowingly or acted recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, a jury may consider the nature of the act itself and the severity of the resulting injuries. Note that the actual victim may be someone other than the intended victim. It does not matter. Also, if the defendant attempted to cause serious bodily injury, it does not matter whether such injury actually resulted.
Simple Assault in New JerseyThe first thing to understand is that there is nothing “simple” about simple assault. For starters, its legal consequences, both immediate and long-term, are vastly disproportionate to its understated label. Secondly, the law itself concerning simple assault (as in most criminal matters) is deceptively complex.
New Jersey specifies three ways that a person can commit a simple assault. These ways can be found at N.J.S. 2C:12-1a. They are:
- Attempting to cause, or purposely, knowingly, or recklessly causing, bodily injury to another;
- Negligently causing bodily injury to another using a deadly weapon; and
- Attempting by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury
Convictions for simple assault expose a person to a jail term of six months, and a fine of $1,000.00, plus other statutory assessments. Where bodily injury or other expenses to the victim resulted, the court will order restitution. And, very importantly, the conviction remains on one's record for employers, potential employers, potential landlords, licensing agencies and, really, anyone who cares to look, to see. One's ability to get or keep a firearms permit will be jeopardized. The ability of non-citizens to remain in the country, or reenter the country, or obtain citizenship, can be seriously affected, sometimes beyond repair.
NJ Assaults--Legal Defenses:Even when actions satisfy the elements indicated above, various defenses exist. New Jersey calls these defenses “affirmative defenses”. These affirmative defenses include self defense, and defense of others. These defenses apply to all assaults, not just serious bodily injury aggravated assault.
Persons charged in New Jersey with any type of assault should consult with an experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer immediately. Defense of assault cases often benefits from immediate investigation. This immediate investigation helps to identify and seek cooperation from witnesses, and to preserve evidence. These steps can be crucial for effective defense efforts. Criminal Lawyers in New Jersey know what kinds of witnesses and evidence can help the defense.
Allan Marain and Kenneth G. Goodman are New Jersey assault lawyers. Their combined experience totals about seventy years. Each has successfully represented numerous New Jersey persons charged with simple assault and aggravated assault. Each is available to discuss charges against you in a no-obligation one on one conference. Call them!