Assault is an extremely varied crime in the state of New Jersey and covers a wide array of behavior. The statute is defined in N.J.S.A. 2c12-1 and can range anywhere from a petty disorderly persons offense punishable by 30 days in jail and $500.00 in fines all the way up to a second degree crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The degree of the offense depends heavily on the particular conduct being alleged. Assault can most easily be broken into three categories; Simple Assault, Aggravated Assault, and Assault by Vehicle or Vessel. To follow is a paraphrased description of each.
The most common assault charge is simple assault. There are three ways in which simple assault can be charged:
1. Purposely, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, or attempting to cause bodily injury.
2. Negligently causing bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon
3. Attempts by physical menace to put another person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
For purposes of this statute, bodily injury means pain, illness or any impairment of physical condition. Serious bodily injury means an injury which creates a substantial risk of death, serious, permanent disfigurement, or loss or impairment of an organ or member. Typically, Simple assault is a disorderly person’s offense. If it is part of a “fight or scuffle” entered by mutual consent, it is a petty disorderly persons offense. If it is committed by an employee of an institution against an institutionalized elderly person it is a 4th degree offense. If it is committed in the presence of a person under the age of 16 at a school or a community sponsored youth sports event, it is also a crime of the 4th degree.
Aggravated assault ranges from 4th degree to second degree depending upon the particular conduct there are eleven specific types of conduct which can constitute aggravated assault
1. Attempting to cause serious bodily injury, knowingly causes serious bodily injury, or with extreme indifference to human life, recklessly causes bodily injury. This is a second degree offense
2. Attempting to cause, or knowingly or intentionally causes bodily injury with a deadly weapon. This is a third degree crime.
3. Recklessly causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon. This is a crime of the fourth degree.
4. Knowingly pointing a gun at another person at another person with extreme indifference to human life. This is a crime of the 4th degree (Note: it doesn’t matter if the gun is unloaded)
5. Committing simple assault on specific types of employees while they are on the job. Some examples are police, firemen, first aid workers, teachers or other school employees, DCPP workers (DYFS workers), judges, Utility workers (Phone, Cable, Etc.), health care workers, this is a crime of the 4th degree (third if the victim suffers bodily injury)
6. Causes bodily injury to someone while eluding police or driving a stolen vehicle. This is a crime of the 2nd degree.
7. Knowingly purposefully or with extreme indifference to human life causing or attempting to cause significant bodily injury to another person. This is a 3rd degree crime
8. Knowingly or purposefully starting a fire that causes injury to emergency responders. This is a crime of the third degree. If the bodily injury is serious or significant it is a crime of the second degree.
9. Pointing a gun or firearm at law enforcement knowingly or with extreme indifference to human life. This is a third degree crime.
10. Pointing a firearm at a police officer with intent to intimidate, threaten or attempt to put the officer in fear of bodily injury crime of the third degree
11. Pointing a laser sight or what could be reasonably believed to be a laser sight (i.e. Laser pointer) at a police officer. The belief that it was a laser sight must be reasonable. This is a crime of the third degree.
For purposes of this statute, a deadly weapon is capable of producing death or serious bodily injury or which could cause someone to believe it is capable of producing serious bodily injury (an example could be a fake gun.)
Assault by auto or vessel is caused when a person drives a vehicle recklessly and causes serious bodily injury or bodily injury to another. Assault by auto is a fourth degree crime with certain exceptions. If you commit the crime while also committing a DWI offense (driving while intoxicated) it is a third degree crime. Assault by auto is a second degree crime. If you are committing a DWI and on school property or in a school crossing when the crime is committed, it is a crime of the second degree.
Call William C. Miller, Attorney at Law, Today
There is little doubt that assault is a very complex crime. Keep in mind that this description is a shortened paraphrased version of the statute. If you have been charged with assault, it is important that you talk to an attorney as soon as possible. As you can see, the degree of assault can vary greatly depending upon the circumstances, and only an experienced legal professional can competently assess whether the crime has been charged appropriately. Furthermore, there may be other defenses available to you. All of the evidence must be legally obtained. Often times, a witness may not be able to appear or lack credibility. Don’t risk going to court unrepresented. Call my office at (732) 742-5556. I will be happy to discuss your case. As always, first consultations are free.