Assault is a crime that is subject to heavy penalties in New Jersey. Assault charges carry fines and jail time, and having an assault conviction on your criminal record can have various collateral consequences as well. As a result, if you have been charged with assault in New Jersey, you need experienced legal representation, and it is important that you discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney right away.
Were You Charged with Simple Assault or Aggravated Assault?
In order to determine what penalties you are facing, you need to know whether you have been charged with simple assault or aggravated assault. Both of these crimes are defined in Section 2C:12-1 of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice.
Simple assault is classified as a disorderly persons offense. While this is a lower-level offense, the consequences of a conviction can still be severe. Aggravated assault is classified as an indictable offense; and depending on the “degree” of your charge, an aggravated assault charge can carry up to a decade behind bars.
In New Jersey, assault charges can carry penalties ranging from a $1,000 fine and six months of jail time to a $150,000 fine and a 10-year sentence. The penalties that are on the table depend heavily on the allegations involved, and there are several different ways that prosecutors can pursue assault charges under New Jersey law. Regardless of the circumstances of your case, you will need to do everything you can to defend yourself, and you will need an experienced New Jersey assault lawyer on your side.
There are three main types of assault charges in New Jersey: (i) simple assault, (ii) aggravated assault and (iii) assault by auto or vessel.
Elements of Simple Assault
Simple assault is a disorderly person's offense in most cases. In order to secure a conviction, prosecutors must prove that the defendant:
- Attempted to cause bodily injury to another;
- Purposely, knowingly or recklessly caused bodily injury to another;
- Negligently caused bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon; or,
- Attempted by “physical menace (i.e., physical threat)” to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
As you can see, attempting to cause bodily injury is enough to trigger an assault charge under New Jersey law. Accidentally harming someone is not a crime unless the incident involves a deadly weapon. If your case does not involve a deadly weapon, the prosecution must be able to prove that you acted purposely, knowingly or recklessly. This does not require evidence that you intended to cause harm.
New Jersey’s Penalties for Simple Assault
If you are convicted of simple assault in New Jersey, you will face the penalties for a disorderly persons offense. These penalties include:
- A fine of up to $1,000, and
- Up to six months of jail time.
Elements of Aggravated Assault
Aggravated assault can be prosecuted as a second, third, or fourth-degree indictable offense under New Jersey law. In most cases, to secure a conviction, prosecutors must prove that the defendant:
- Attempted to cause serious bodily injury to another;
- Purposely or knowingly caused serious bodily injury to another;
- Caused serious bodily injury under circumstances showing extreme indifference to the value of human life;
- Attempted to cause bodily harm with a deadly weapon;
- Knowingly or recklessly caused bodily harm with a deadly weapon;
- Knowingly pointed a firearm at another person under circumstances showing extreme indifference to the value of human life; or,
- Committed a simple assault against a police officer, an employee of the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, or certain other individuals.
New Jersey’s Penalties for Aggravated Assault
If you are convicted of aggravated assault in New Jersey, the penalties in your case will depend on whether you were charged with a second, third, or fourth-degree indictable offense. The penalties for these offenses include:
- Second-degree indictable offense: 5 to 10 years of imprisonment and up to a $150,000 fine.
- Third-degree indictable offense: Three to five years of imprisonment and up to a $15,000 fine.
- Fourth-degree indictable offense: Up to 18 months of imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
If you are convicted of second-degree aggravated assault, you could be required to serve a minimum of eight and a half years before you become eligible for parole.
Elements of Assault By Auto or Vessel
The crime of assault by auto or vessel involves “driv[ing] a vehicle or vessel recklessly and caus[ing] either serious bodily injury or bodily injury to another.” Since “reckless” conduct is all that is required, prosecutors do not need to prove that you intentionally, purposely or knowingly put other motorists or pedestrians in harm’s way. If you were driving recklessly, and if you hurt someone else while driving recklessly, you are at risk of facing a criminal conviction under New Jersey law.
Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Conviction in New Jersey
In addition to these criminal penalties, an assault conviction in New Jersey can also have various collateral consequences. These are consequences that can impact your life long after your jail or prison sentence ends. For example, having a criminal conviction on your record can make it extremely difficult to find a job, and it can also limit your options for securing housing.
If you are a citizen of another country, a criminal conviction in New Jersey can lead to removal (deportation). If you have a professional license, your license could be suspended or revoked. Individuals with criminal records in New Jersey lose certain other rights (i.e. the right to vote) as well, and reestablishing these rights can be extremely difficult—if it is an option at all.
What Penalties are You Facing in Your New Jersey Assault Case?
Assault cases are complicated, and asserting an effective defense requires a thorough understanding of the laws that apply. To discuss your case with an experienced New Jersey assault lawyer in confidence, call 877-435-6371 or request a confidential consultation online.
To find out what penalties you are facing – and to learn what defenses you have available – schedule a confidential initial consultation with a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. Call us at 877-435-6371, or tell us how you would like to be contacted and we will be in touch as soon as possible.
Over 20 attorneys at HCK have extensive criminal defense experience as they were former assistant prosecutors and/or police officers for a combined total of over 600 years of law enforcement experience. You can find out more about them on our website, and you can call Managing Partner Ron Helmer on his cell phone at 609 685-0665.