Aggravated assault is a serious indictable criminal offense in New Jersey that is on the rise. A recent report showed that while the number of violent crimes overall in New Jersey dropped slightly, the number of aggravated assaults committed annually increased from 117.7 per 100,000 people to 122.2 per 100,000, with a total of 10,852 aggravated assaults in the state for the year. Although charges for aggravated assault can range in severity from fourth to second-degree crimes, all assault offenses are adjudicated at the Superior Court in the county in which the alleged offense occurred. In some circumstances, simple assault charges can be elevated to aggravated assault, for instance, if the alleged victim is a law enforcement officer or public servant. In other instances, assault charges can be accompanied by weapons charges such as unlawful possession of a weapon or possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose if the alleged assault involved the use of a weapon. Still, in other situations, these charges can overlap with restraining order proceedings if they result from an alleged domestic violence incident.
Regardless of the circumstances that give rise to aggravated assault charges, a conviction can result in a significant term of incarceration, devastating fines, and a felony conviction on your criminal record. The New Jersey aggravated assault attorneys at Breslow Law Offices have prosecuted countless aggravated assault cases while working on behalf of the State. They now utilize their extensive experience on the inside of these proceedings to effectively defend their clients in their criminal defense practice. Contact their Essex County office anytime at 973-239-8000 for a free and immediate consultation.
Differences Between an Aggravated Assault Charge and a Simple Assault Charge in New Jersey
A criminal charge of simple assault requires that a person assaults or tries to assault another without using a weapon and without causing serious physical injury. In a recent year, 22,856 people were arrested for simple assault in New Jersey. A charge of aggravated assault, on the other hand, generally requires that a person causes or tries to cause serious physical injury. The difference is in how severe the injury was.
There are some exceptions. Assaults that do not cause serious bodily injury may still be charged as aggravated assaults when the targets of the assaults are engaged in certain jobs, including police officers, firefighters, teachers, and first responders if they were performing their official duties when they were assaulted.
Another exception to the rule that aggravated assaults generally require serious injury is that the criminal charge will be simple assault when someone negligently causes non-serious bodily injury with a deadly weapon, but the charge will be aggravated assault when the same kind of assault is committed with intent or knowledge instead of just negligence.
A simple assault is charged as a disorderly persons offense, except when it occurred during a fight where everyone involved consented to be in the fight. In that case, it’s charged as a petty disorderly persons offense. Aggravated assault, on the other hand, is an indictable offense (the equivalent of a felony), so it’s a much more serious charge.
Examples of simple assaults:
- Two people get into a fight in a bar.
- One person hits another on the arm. The person who was hit gets a bruise on their arm, but they are not seriously injured.
Examples of aggravated assaults:
- One person shoots another in the leg. The victim is seriously injured but survives.
- Someone walks onto a city bus and slaps the driver, who is not seriously hurt.
- Someone deliberately sets a fire in an apartment building. A firefighter at the scene suffers from smoke inhalation.
Aggravated Assault in New Jersey N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b
Aggravated assault offenses are outlined in section N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b of the New Jersey Criminal Code, which delineates the host of circumstances that may warrant aggravated assault charges. Overall, the degree of these charges is determined by the extent of the alleged victim’s injuries, the presence or lack of a weapon, and the identity of the victim (i.e. a law enforcement officer or other public servants).
People may be charged with aggravated assault if they:
- Cause or attempt to cause significant or serious bodily injury
- recklessly, in a way that shows extreme indifference to the value of human life.
- Cause or attempt to cause bodily injury using a deadly weapon knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly.
- Knowingly point a firearm at or in the direction of someone else, even if the person pointing the firearm thinks it’s unloaded.
- Commit what would otherwise be simple assault except that it is committed against certain people while they are performing their official duties, including law enforcement officers, emergency first-aid providers, paid and volunteer firefighters, school employees, including teachers, school administrators, school board members, and school bus drivers, judges, including Supreme Court justices and other members of the judiciary, Department of Corrections employees, Division of Child Protection and Permanency employees, transit workers, utility company and cable television company employees, and health care workers.
- Cause bodily injury to someone while fleeing from a police officer or committing a theft.
- Start a fire or create an explosion, which causes emergency services personnel who come to the scene, including volunteers, to be injured.
- Knowingly point or display a real or imitation firearm in the direction of a law enforcement officer.
- Use a laser-sighting device against a police officer.
Aggravated assault is an indictable offense (the equivalent of a felony). People convicted of this charge can face a prison sentence of up to 10 years. If you were charged with aggravated assault in New Jersey, you must seek legal help right away. Contact the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Breslow Law Offices immediately. Call them now at 973-239-8000 at their law firm’s Verona, Essex County, NJ, office or 609-494-8884 at their Long Beach Island, Ocean County, NJ, office for a free consultation.
New Jersey Criminal Law N.J.S.A. 2C:3-4
If you were charged with aggravated assault, you may be able to defend yourself from the charge if you can prove you acted in self-defense. That is because New Jersey law says that in certain circumstances, you are allowed to use force to defend yourself.
To prove self-defense, you and your criminal defense attorney would need to prove that you used force because you reasonably believed that you were in immediate danger of death or serious bodily harm from someone else’s use of unlawful force and that the force you used was necessary to protect yourself.
You generally cannot claim self-defense if you provoked the other person’s actions because you started the confrontation by trying to seriously injure or kill the other person. You also cannot claim self-defense if you were resisting arrest at the time or if you could have safely retreated, except that you are not required to retreat from your home unless you were the initial aggressor. The law allows you to use force as self-defense in certain circumstances when there is an intruder in your home. The laws that govern when you can use force for self-defense are complex, so you should talk to a criminal defense attorney at the Breslow Law Offices to find out more.
NJ Criminal Law N.J.S.A. 2C:3-6 – “Justifiable Force”
New Jersey law also allows you to use force to defend your premises or personal property in some circumstances.
Sometimes, you may claim that you were using justifiable force (to defend your premises or personal property) to raise a defense against a charge of aggravated assault. To do so, you need to prove that you used force because you reasonably believed that someone was trying to trespass on your property or steal your possessions and that your use of force was necessary to prevent or stop them from trespassing or stealing. You must also prove that before you used force, you requested that the person stop unless you reasonably believed that such a request would be useless or dangerous.
Penalties for Aggravated Assault in New Jersey
In New Jersey, aggravated assault is a serious crime. If you are convicted of aggravated assault, you could have to serve a long prison sentence. You may also have to pay a high fine.
Fourth Degree Aggravated Assault NJ
Aggravated assault is a fourth-degree charge when someone:
- Recklessly injures another person by using a deadly weapon.
- Points a firearm at or in the direction of another person.
- Commits what would have been charged as a simple assault except that it was against certain people performing their official duties, including police officers, firefighters, school employees, and health care workers, and does not cause injury.
The penalty for fourth degree aggravated assault in New Jersey is up to 18 months in state prison.
Third Degree Aggravated Assault NJ
Aggravated assault is a third-degree charge when someone:
- Purposely, knowingly, or recklessly causes or tries to cause serious injuries using a deadly weapon.
- Purposely, knowingly, or recklessly causes or attempts to cause significant bodily injury.
- Points or display a gun at a law enforcement official, even if the gun is fake.
- Uses a laser sighting system against a police officer
- Starts a fire or explosion that injures first responders, including volunteers, coming to the scene.
- Commits simple assault and injures certain people while they perform their official duties, including police officers, firefighters, school employees, and health care workers.
- Commits domestic violence by purposely, knowingly, or recklessly choking a partner or family member.
The penalty for third degree aggravated assault in New Jersey is up to three to five years in state prison, unless you are a first-time offender.
Second Degree Aggravated Assault NJ
Aggravated assault is a second-degree charge when someone:
- Injures another person while fleeing from the police.
- Starts a fire or explosion that significantly or seriously injures first responders.
- Purposely, knowingly, or recklessly causes or attempts to cause serious injury to another in a way not otherwise listed in the statute.
The penalty for second degree aggravated assault in New Jersey is five to ten years in state prison, even for first-time offenders. Some defendants may have to serve 85% of their sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
First Time Offense for Aggravated Assault
Judges may be more lenient with someone who has not previously committed a crime. New Jersey has a presumption that first-time offenders will not get jail time for committing third or fourth degree crimes.
However, there are exceptions. Judges will send first-time offenders to prison if they think they need to protect the public, given the nature of the offense and the defendant’s character and history. Also, the exemption from jail time for third-degree crimes does not apply to aggravated assaults that are committed in the context of domestic violence.
Consequences for Juveniles for Aggravated Assault Charges
Judges have considerable leeway when deciding what to do with juveniles who have committed aggravated assault. Depending on the severity of the offense, a judge might sentence a juvenile to counseling, community service, probation, a work program, or one to three years in a juvenile detention facility.
Who Might Qualify for a PTI Program With an Aggravated Assault Charge?
New Jersey has a program called Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) that allows some people charged with felonies to skip prosecution and go straight to probation. If they successfully complete their probation, the charges are dismissed. However, if they don’t meet the conditions of their probation, they will be convicted and sentenced for their original crimes.
To qualify for PTI for an aggravated assault charge:
- Your offense has to be in the third or fourth degree
- You have to be willing to plead guilty, and
- You must not have been in PTI for a prior offense.
Acceptance into the program is not guaranteed.
Can a Person Get an Expungement on an Aggravated Assault in New Jersey?
When you have a criminal conviction for aggravated assault on your record, it will follow you for the rest of your life. It can get in the way when you apply for a job, try to rent an apartment, or want to get a loan from a bank.
However, in New Jersey, you may have a chance to start over with a clean slate. That’s because New Jersey, in some circumstances, allows you to expunge your record of an aggravated assault conviction. Expunging the record means that it will be removed.
To qualify for an expungement for an aggravated assault conviction, it must be your first conviction for an indictable offense, and you may not have more than two prior disorderly or petty disorderly person offenses. You will have to wait a certain number of years, depending on the circumstances, and then file a petition to the court. There is no guarantee that you will be approved. An experienced expungement lawyer will help you get the best results possible.
Don’t Wait! Call a New Jersey Aggravated Assault Lawyer Now 973-239-8000
Were you or someone you know recently charged with assault in New Jersey? Let our aggravated-assault attorney at the New Jersey Breslow Law Offices use his 45 years of experience to take on your case and aggressively fight for your rights. Call us at 973-239-8000 for a free case evaluation. You will gain a comprehensive understanding of the charges against you, the potential penalties, and the options that may be available to you as an alternative to conviction. Contact the Breslow Law Offices today to get started.