What is Simple Assault in NJ?
Simple assault is one of the most common criminal charges filed against individuals in New Jersey. This is predominantly because the language of the simple assault statute is so broad that it encompasses a wide range of alleged conduct. Moreover, charges for simple assault can arise is myriad of scenarios. For instance, it often occurs in situations involving alcohol, such as a bar fight, or is the result of a domestic violence incident which may include other offenses such as harassment or terroristic threats. Because simple assault is considered a violent crime, New Jersey takes it very seriously and, if convicted, you can be punished by probation, community service, and jail time. Therefore, it is important that you have the representation of an experienced New Jersey assault lawyer.
Jersey City Simple Assault Lawyer
Proetta & Oliver is a Hudson County law firm where skilled criminal defense attorneys defend clients charged with simple assault and related crimes such as disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Our lawyers represent individuals in Hudson County and throughout New Jersey, including in Weehawken, Bloomfield, North Bergen, Newark, Secaucus and Belleville. The law firm’s founding attorney, Will Proetta, Esq., has successfully handled thousands of criminal and municipal cases throughout his career.
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We know the courts and we know how the system works. If you have been charged with simple assault in New Jersey and would like to learn more about how we can help you, call our Jersey City office today for a free initial consultation at (201) 793-8018. You can also fill out our online form to arrange a free consultation about your simple assault charges.
New Jersey Simple Assault Law under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1a
Simple assault is a criminal offense in New Jersey and is governed by N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1, which provides in pertinent part that:
A person is guilty of a simple assault if he or she:
(1) Attempts to cause or purposely, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another; or
(2) Negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon; or
(3) Attempts by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
These different scenarios laid out in N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(a) establish different standards of conduct that can give rise to a simple assault charge, specifically Purposely, Knowingly, Recklessly, or Negligently. Depending on which standard applies in your case, it might be easier, or harder, for the prosecutor to prove the elements of the charge and seek a conviction at trial. The New Jersey criminal code defines these different standards as the “general requirements of culpability” in a criminal case.
You could be Charged with Simple Assault for Acting Purposely
If you actually caused bodily injury to the victim, then the prosecutor will be held to the highest standard of proof: purposely or knowingly. This means that it will be harder for the prosecutor to establish the defendant’s guilt if the case goes to trial because the prosecutor will need to show that the defendant either intentionally caused the victim’s injuries or knew that the assault would cause the victim to sustain injuries. For the purposes of a criminal charge like simple assault or aggravated assault, “purposely” is interchangeable with “intentionally.” In other words, if you lightly shoved the victim in a playful manner and they happened to fall over and hurt themselves, your action might not rise to the level of simple assault because you may not have intended to hurt the
Knowingly Committing Simple Assault
“Knowingly” is a similar standard to “purposely” because knowingly means that the defendant knew that their conduct was likely to cause the victim to suffer injuries. The New Jersey criminal code states that “a person acts knowingly with respect to a result of his conduct if he is aware that it is practically certain that his conduct will cause such a result.” This is a very high standard of proof for the prosecutor to meet because they must establish that the defendant not only knew that their actions might cause injury, but also that they were “practically certain” that the victim would be injured as a result.
Acting Recklessly for a Simple Assault Charge
It is not always necessary for the prosecutor to prove that the defendant in a simple assault case intended to hurt the victim; instead, the prosecutor can establish that the defendant acted “recklessly.” What could this mean for your simple assault case? The recklessness standard basically means that the defendant acted in a manner that obviously would have caused injury, and the defendant should have known better. By law, a person acts recklessly when they “consciously disregard a substantial and unjustifiable risk” that their actions will cause a certain outcome. For a person charged with simple assault, this means that the prosecutor must prove that the defendant recognized circumstances that would have convinced a reasonable person to not engage in the alleged conduct, and then consciously disregarded those circumstances. It is your conscious disregard of those circumstances that would provide the basis for the simple assault charge.
Negligence with a Deadly Weapon Under under the NJ Simple Assault Statute
The negligence standard only applies in a simple assault case when the defendant is accused of using a deadly weapon during the assault. This is a lower standard of proof for the prosecution, and that’s because NJ lawmakers recognized the obvious dangers posed by an assault that involves the use of a deadly weapon. So, what does “negligence” mean in this context? The criminal code states that a person acts negligently when they should be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk of a certain outcome being caused by their conduct. Basically, the key distinction between “recklessness” and “negligence” is that recklessness requires proof that the defendant “consciously disregarded” the possible risk of injury caused by their actions, while negligence requires proof that the defendant was merely “aware” of the possible risk of injury caused by their actions. Again, it is easier for the prosecutor to prove mere awareness of a danger, which means that it is easier for the prosecution to seek a conviction in a simple assault case that involved the use of a deadly weapon.
Additionally, it must be noted that “deadly weapon” in the context of a simple assault charge does not just mean firearm or gun. The term is often defined very broadly by prosecutors and judges to include weapons such as a knife, a stun gun, brass knuckles, a baseball bat, etc. In fact, just about any object can potentially be defined as a deadly weapon, depending on how that weapon was utilized.
Was Someone Injured when You were Charged with Simple Assault in Jersey City?
As seen in the above statute, simple assault does not require actual injury to the victim or that the injury was done intentionally – a common misconception. In fact, merely an attempt to cause bodily injury to another person is considered a violation of New Jersey simple assault law. Notice, the statute makes a distinct between “bodily injury” and “serious bodily injury.” The extent of the victim’s injury is often a critical factor in an assault case. As defined by a Section 2C:11-1, “bodily injury” means physical pain, illness or any impairment of physical condition. On the other hand, “serious bodily injury” refers to injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.
In the context of simple assault, a person may be charged with a violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1 for attempting to cause bodily injury, the lesser extent of the two, or for physical menace that puts a person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury. As you might imagine, the breadth of the language in this statute is often used to justify simple assault charges when no actual injury occurs.
What are the Fines & Penalties for Simple Assault in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, simple assault is considered a disorderly persons offense, also referred to as a misdemeanor. A disorderly persons offense is punishable by up to 6 months in the county jail and a $1,000 fine. Additional penalties can include anger management counseling, community service and thousands in restitution for the victim’s damages. It is also common for a simple assault charge to be upgraded to an Aggravated Assault crime if the victim’s injuries are serious, a deadly weapon was used, or if the victim is a police officer or another public servant. In fact, you may be charged with aggravated assault for behavior that would otherwise constitute simple assault, if the alleged victim is a paid or volunteer fireman, an emergency medical technician (EMT), teacher, school bus driver, school board member, school administrator, employee of the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, judge, prosecutor, public utility employee, or corrections officer.
Simple assault is also considered a predicate act of domestic violence in New Jersey, which means it may be used to justify the issuance of a restraining order. If simple assault occurs in the context of domestic violence, the victim may pursue criminal charges for simple assault and file a Temporary Restraining Order. When examining the evidence at a Final Restraining Order hearing, a judge will use simple assault to satisfy one of the necessary criteria for a permanent restraining order.
Contact a Hoboken NJ Simple Assault Attorney for a Free Consultation
Simple assault in New Jersey is no joke. A brawl, a fistfight, or even a minor altercation can have serious, long-lasting consequences, especially if you are arrested by police afterwards. Moreover, prosecutors in New Jersey won’t hesitate to seek the maximum allowable penalty in an assault case, which means that you could be subject to jail time if convicted. Beyond that, it’s possible that you will also face other criminal charges, depending on what happened before you were arrested on the simple assault charge. The bottom line is that you need to speak with a competent, qualified NJ criminal defense lawyer immediately and start building a strong defense against your simple assault charges.
If you or a loved one has been charged with simple assault in Hudson County, New Jersey, including in Kearny, Harrison, West New York, Guttenberg, Union City or Bayonne, then please take advantage of this opportunity to contact an experienced NJ simple assault lawyer at (201) 793-8018 for a free initial consultation. We will listen to the circumstances of your unique case and explain all of your legal options.