Typically, aggravated assault charges are more violent in nature than simple assault charges. However, sometimes an aggravated assault charge can be elevated from a simple assault charge based on the severity of the injury the victim sustained or who the action was directed toward. For example, simple assault against a law enforcement officer, fireman, or school teacher rises to the level of aggravated assault.
If you or a family member has been charged with aggravated assault in the New Jersey area, it is important to find trusted legal help to help you try to defend yourself against criminal charges that could result in prison time, fines, restitution to the victim, and the loss of certain rights.
What is Aggravated Assault?
According to NJ Satute: 2C:12-1b, the legal elements of aggravated assault are:
- Attempt to cause serious bodily injury with extreme indifference;
- Recklessly cause bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon; or
- Recklessly display extreme indifference to human life.
In New Jersey, there are a number of ways that aggravated assault is differentiated from simple assault. Typically if you are being charged with aggravated assault, one or more of the following may have occurred.
- The victim sustained heavy bodily injury.
- A deadly weapon was used.
- You threatened someone with a gun (loaded or unloaded).
- You resisted arrest.
- You committed assault against a police officer or other public-facing employee.
- You exhibited indifference to human life.
Simple vs. Aggravated Assault
In New Jersey, assault is separated into two different charges – simple assault and aggravated assault. Aggravated assault is the more serious of the two, and the categorization is dependent on the circumstances surrounding the alleged crime.
In general, simple assault is when there is an attempt or threat to injure or there is a more minor injury, and aggravated assault occurs in an instance of more severe injury or if a weapon is used.
Aggravated Assault Charges
Aggravated assault in New Jersey can be classified as a second-, third- or fourth-degree crime, and the degree of charge depends on the severity of the action. Each one varies with what the state can charge you with. Consulting one of our highly experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you find out where your crime may fall.
Fourth Degree Aggravated Assault
If you are charged with a fourth-degree aggravated assault, you are on the lower end of possible charges or penalties because the threat or injury is generally viewed as minor. You may be facing up to 18 months in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
Third Degree Aggravated Assault
You may be charged with third-degree aggravated assault if there is the attempt to cause bodily harm that does not rise to the point of second-degree aggravated assault. If you are charged with a third-degree aggravated assault, you may be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison and fines of up to $15,000.
Second Degree Aggravated Assault
A second-degree aggravated assault charge is usually the worst charge under an aggravated assault claim. You may have been resisting or fleeing arrest or have inflicted serious bodily injuries. Second-degree assault penalties can include 5-10 years in prison and fines of up to $150,000. The defendant may have some civil rights taken away such as the right to own firearms, and you could be subject to probation or electronic monitoring. Second-degree aggravated assault also invokes the No Early Release Act, requiring those convicted to serve 85% of their prison sentence before parole.
Defending Against Aggravated Assault
A skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to find ways to help you avoid a conviction or lessen the consequences. Common defenses for aggravated assault include:
- Defense of property – If you are charged with aggravated assault while defending your property, you may be able to use that as a defense against the charge. For example, if you were in fear that your personal property was at risk.
- Mistake of fact – For example, in response to a threatening comment, you strike the offending speaker in the mouth. You did not know that they had recently undergone a jaw operation. Your blow causes damage because the jaw was not yet healed. Had you known, you wouldn’t have directed the blow the face. This could be deemed a “mistake of fact.”
- Self-defense – If you feared for your safety, you may be able to use this as a defense against aggravated assault.
- Defense of another – If you feared for the safety of another and they would have had the right to defend themselves, you may be able to claim that you were defending another’s safety.
- Alibi – If you were not present at the time of the assault, you will need to provide a verifiable written alibi within 14 days of the charges.
- Insanity – If you claim insanity or temporary insanity, you could be able to lessen the sentencing against you. You may, however, face other issues when claiming this defense.
- Consent – If you are in a situation where the parties have consented to be harmed to some degree – for example, a boxing match or other sports competition – it may not be considered aggravated assault.
Finding an Aggravated Assault Lawyer
An aggravated assault charge can affect your ability to get a job and negatively impact other factors of your life. Consulting an experienced criminal defense lawyer is important to help you understand the complexity of the charges brought against you and to help you prepare an effective defense strategy.
Rosenberg | Perry & Associates team is dedicated to providing compassionate, aggressive legal services to help you navigate assault charges and other legal issues. If you’re looking for an experienced criminal defense team for an aggravated assault charge in New Jersey, call Rosenberg | Perry & Associates today for a free consultation.