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?
Pursuant to NJ Statute: 2C:12-1b, the legal elements of aggravated assault are:
- Attempts or causes serious bodily injury to another purposely or knowingly or, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, recklessly causes such injury;
- Attempts to cause or purposely or knowingly causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon;
- Recklessly causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon;
- Knowingly, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human, life points a firearm at or in the direction of another, whether or not the actor believes it to be loaded; or
- Commits a Simple Assault against certain individuals, including but not limited to police, fireman, and EMTs.
In New Jersey, there are a number of ways that aggravated assault is differentiated from simple assault.
Examples of Aggravated Assault include:
- Assault resulting in serious bodily injury to the victim.
- Use of a deadly weapon (such as a firearm, knife or even a pencil or pen, given the circumstances).
- Pointing a gun at someone (loaded or unloaded).
- Resisting arrest and causing injury to the officer.
- Committing assault against a member of a protected class such as a police officer, public-facing employee, or developmentally disabled or elderly person.
- Exhibiting indifference to human life.
- Assault with intent to commit an additional felony (e.g., sexual assault or theft)
Real-World Examples of Aggravated Assault
The following situations provide real-world examples of when you could be charged with Aggravated Assault.
- If a person punches someone in the face and the victim suffers a broken bone or loss of consciousness.
- Pointing what appears to be a handgun or firearm at someone, regardless of whether the gun is loaded or real. That means that if you point an airsoft BB gun at someone it is treated the same as though it was a loaded handgun.
- Pushing, slapping, or punching a police officer causing physical pain to the officer is deemed an Aggravated Assault.
- Using a pen, pencil, or umbrella to try and stab someone is an Aggravated Assault. Under those circumstances, the item will be deemed a deadly weapon.
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 someone causes, attempts, or threatens to cause bodily injury. “Bodily injury” means physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition. Simply stated, any form of pain experienced by the victim meets this definition.
Aggravated assault generally occurs when someone causes or attempts to cause, serious bodily injury or if a weapon is used. Aggravated Assault also occurs when the alleged victim is a police officer, fireman, EMT, or other specified class.
“Serious bodily injury” is defined as an injury that leads to serious permanent disfigurement, loss or impairment of any bodily member or organ or causes a substantial risk of death.
Is Aggravated Assault a Felony in NJ?
In New Jersey, a felony is called an indictable offense. While simple assault in New Jersey is considered a disorderly persons offense, aggravated assault is an indictable offense or what is commonly referred to as a “felony”.
Penalties for an aggravated assault conviction can include:
- Jail or prison time from 18 months to 10 years (depending on the degree);
- Financial fines and penalties;
- Restitution payments to the alleged victim;
- Mandatory anger management classes;
- Being prohibited from possessing a firearm; and/or
- Permanent record showing your conviction for aggravated assault.
If you have been charged with aggravated assault you should contact a lawyer to help you build a defense to try and avoid these potential penalties and keep your criminal record clear or becoming worse.
Aggravated Assault Charges in NJ
Aggravated assault in New Jersey can be classified as a second-, third- or fourth-degree crime, and the degree of the 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. If convicted of fourth-degree aggravated assault, you could be sentenced to up to 18 months in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
To be convicted of fourth-degree aggravated assault in NJ a prosecutor would have to prove:
- You recklessly caused bodily injury to the victim with a deadly weapon;
- You committed a simple assault against a specified class of person causing bodily injury (e.g., police officer, fireman or school teacher);
- You pointed a weapon at the alleged victim (whether you knew or believed the gun was loaded or not); or
- You committed simple assault on someone at a school or community sponsored youth sporting event in the presence of a minor under the age of 16.
Third Degree Aggravated Assault
You may be charged with third-degree aggravated assault if there is an 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.
To be convicted of third-degree aggravated assault in NJ, a prosecutor would have to prove:
- You attempt to cause or successfully caused bodily injury to the alleged victim with a deadly weapon;
- You knowingly demonstrated extreme indifference to the value of human life;
- You attempted to cause or did cause serious bodily injury to the alleged victim;
- You knowingly pointed a firearm at or in the direction of the alleged victim;
- You attempted to intimidate or threaten a law enforcement officer with a real or fake firearm;
- You attempted to cause or did cause significant bodily injury to someone who meets the definition of a domestic violence victim; or
- You recklessly obstructed the breathing or blood circulation of someone who meets the definition of a domestic violence victim by applying pressure on the alleged victim’s throat, neck, or by blocking their nose or mouth.
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.
To be convicted of second-degree aggravated assault in NJ, a prosecutor would have to prove:
- You attempted to cause serious bodily injury or did cause serious bodily. Under certain circumstances showing extreme indifference to the value of human life;
- You caused serious bodily injury to someone while fleeing or eluding a law enforcement officer while operating a motor vehicle without the vehicle owner’s consent;
- You caused significant or serious bodily injury by starting a fire, which could be considered arson, or causing an explosion that resulted in the injury to responding emergency services personnel. This would be considered third-degree aggravated assault if only minor bodily injury occurs.
Juvenile Aggravated Assault in NJ
Juveniles in NJ can face aggravated assault charges. Juveniles are minors or anyone under the age of 18. As a minor, the penalties are not as severe as if they were committed by an adult.
Juveniles charged with aggravated assault can face the following penalties:
- Fourth-degree aggravated assault: Up to 1 year in a juvenile detention facility.
- Third-degree aggravated assault: Up to 2 years in a juvenile detention facility.
- Second-degree aggravated assault: A maximum of 3 years in a juvenile detention facility.
The state can seek to waive a juvenile up to adult court where they would be charged as an adult and face much harsher sentencing penalties. In those cases, the juvenile is treated as though they are an adult and face the same potential penalties as an adult in criminal court.
NJ law requires that a lawyer be present during the court proceedings to defend the juvenile charged with a crime. Meaning, juveniles are required to have lawyers.
As judges are bound by the legal standards of the best interests of the child they take many factors into consideration during the sentencing of an adjudicated minor and alternative sentences are common. The lawyers at Rosenberg | Perry & Associates are experienced juvenile defense lawyers and are prepared to defend your child should they be charged with aggravated assault.
Aggravated Assault Defenses
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 to 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.
- Lack of Intent – If it can be shown that your actions were purely accidental or there was no criminal intent, this may be a possible defense for an aggravated assault charge.
Contact NJ Aggravated Assault Lawyers
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, contact Rosenberg | Perry & Associates today for a free consultation.