When It Looks Like You Could Go to Jail on Assault Charges
You feel entirely justified. After all, you only punched the guy in the nose after he said something derogatory about your sister. Meanwhile, even a few moments in cuffs has you concerned. Now that you’re facing assault charges, you are downright worried. Could you wind up in jail?
First, you should be aware that under New Jersey law, there are two different types of assault charges. According to NJSA 2C:12-1, you could be arrested for either simple assault or aggravated assault. Although the penalties are less for simple assault, a conviction could still find you behind bars. Therefore, either arrest warrants retention of experienced defense counsel.
Wonder how common assault charges are? The New Jersey State Police Uniform Crime Reporting Unit keeps a record of reported crimes throughout the state. As of October 2017, there were 3,846 arrests for simple assault. Meanwhile, 716 individuals were arrested for aggravated assault. The latter is a cumulative total for those accused of using guns, knives and other dangerous weapons. Some of those arrested for aggravated assault used their hands, fists or feet to impose bodily harm.
As you might surmise, simple assault is the lesser of the two charges. Unlike other jurisdictions, New Jersey does not classify crimes as misdemeanors or felonies. Instead, arrests are broken down into non-indictable offenses and indictable crimes. Simple assault charges are heard in municipal court.
First, you need to understand what is considered simple assault in New Jersey. You could be charged with simple assault for any of the following reasons:
- You attempted to cause or purposely, knowingly or recklessly caused bodily injury to another; or
- You negligently caused bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon; or
- You attempted by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
When it comes down to it, the severity of the injury plays some part into whether you are facing a charge for simple or aggravated assault. Did the assault involve a physical altercation of mutual consent? This will be important when if you are convicted of a simple assault charge.
For the most part, there is some confusion as to how simple assault could involve the use of a deadly weapon at all. One of the operative words is negligence. Additionally, you could create a physical menace by waving a knife in someone’s face and not ever making physical contact.
If you are convicted of simple assault charges, you are subject to sentencing guidelines for either disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly offenses. In addition to court costs and fines, you could spend up to six months in county jail. In some circumstances, the judge may assign you to anger management classes.
Aggravated Assault Charges
There are a number of reasons that your charges might be elevated to aggravated assault. First, who are you accused of assaulting? What might be considered simple assault in other cases changes if you are accused of causing or intending to cause bodily harm to a police officer or firefighter. The same is true if the assault involved a family member.
However, there are other reasons that you could be charged with aggravated assault. What was the extent of the victim’s injuries? Are you accused of recklessly causing bodily harm to the victim with the use of a deadly weapon? Meanwhile, you could be suspected of showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life.”
Aggravated assault charges are heard in Superior Court before a judge and jury. Depending on the outcome of the case, you could be sentenced to as long as ten years in prison. Of course, you can face other penalties as well.
Defenses to Assault Charges
When it comes to defending assault charges, self-defense is an obvious one. If you assaulted someone because you were in fear for your personal safety, your attorney would present the facts that support your allegations. Meanwhile, provocation may be used as a defense against assault charges.
Are there other defenses to assault charges? You may assault someone else as a means of defending a family member who is being harmed. Additionally, you might fight to hold on to property that is rightfully yours and assault someone in the process. In some cases, there may be a showing that the assault was one of mutual consent.