If Convicted of Assault, You Could Face Up to 10 Years in Prison
Assault charges in New Jersey can carry penalties ranging from 30 days in jail and a $500 fine for a petty disorderly persons offense, up to 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine for a second degree indictable offense. Assault charges vary based on several factors including how severely the victim was injured, whether the defendant used a weapon, and, in some cases, whether the victim was in a protected group, such as law enforcement officers and other first responders, judges, operators of rail passenger services or motorbuses, corrections officials, and utility workers.
If you or someone you care about is facing an assault charge in New Jersey, I encourage you to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today. New Jersey assault charges are serious, and a conviction for assault carries with it the stigma of being convicted of a violent crime. To give yourself the best chance of minimizing or even beating an assault charge, you need an experienced lawyer who will provide you with the best defense possible.
What is assault?
An assault is any crime involving a physical attack. New Jersey divides assault crimes into two categories: aggravated assault, and simple assault.
Aggravated assault involves knowingly, purposefully, or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury to another person. Aggravated assault can be charged as a crime of the fourth, third, or second degree, depending on the severity of injury to the victim, and whether a firearm or other deadly weapon was involved. The more severe the injury to the victim, the higher the charges and potential penalty will be.
New Jersey divides the bodily injury into three categories:
- Bodily injury – when a victim suffers “physical pain, illness or any impairment of physical condition.”
- Significant bodily injury -a “temporary loss of the function of any bodily member or organ or temporary loss of any one of the five senses,” such as a broken bone of temporary loss of consciousness.
- Serious bodily injury -a substantial risk of death, long-term disfigurement, or loss or impairment of an organ, such as loss of a finger or eye, or a permanent limp as a result of an injury.
If you are convicted of a fourth degree assault charge, you face a jail sentence of up to 18 months and a fine of up to $10,000. Conviction for a third degree assault charge can result in a prison term of 3 to 5 years and a fine of up to $15,000, while a second degree assault charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
Second degree assault charges also have a period of parole ineligibility under the No Early Release Act (NERA). Thus, a person convicted of such an aggravated assault is required to serve eighty-five percent (85%) of their respective sentence before they are eligible for release. Certain aggravated assault with weapons may also have period of parole ineligibility under the Graves Act. For instance, if you point a firearm at a person this is a fourth degree aggravated assault, but there is a mandatory 18 month state prison and you are required to serve the entire 18 month sentence.
A simple assault can be elevated to an aggravated assault if the victim is in a protected group and the assault occurs while the victim is performing his or her official duties, or if the assault is due to their status as a member of a particular profession. This group includes law enforcement officers, first responders like firemen and emergency medical personnel, school personnel like board members, administrators, and bus operators, judges, employees of the Department of Corrections, employees of utility companies, and employees of the Division of Youth and Family Services.
A person can also be charged with aggravated assault even if no physical injury occurs. Under the definition of assault, it is enough for the state to prove that the defendant was attempting to cause bodily injury and took a “substantial step” towards injuring the victim.
Simple Assault is the less serious of the assault charges, and may be charged for purposefully, knowingly, or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury to another person, unintentionally injuring someone with a deadly weapon, or attempting to put someone in fear of imminent bodily injury.
Simple assault is charged as a disorderly persons offense with the potential of up to 6 months in jail, and up to a $1,000 fine.
If you are involved in fight that both parties mutually entered, the charge might be lowered to a petty disorderly offense with a penalty of up to 30 days in jail and up to a $500 fine.
What should you do if you are facing assault charges?
It is important that you hire a criminal defense attorney as early-on in the process as possible to defend you against assault charges. I will investigate your case to raise any possible defenses, and challenge the evidence presented against you. If successful, we may be able to negotiate a plea for a lesser sentence, or even have your case thrown out.
If you or someone you care about is facing assault charges, contact me at The Slaven Law Firm today. A former prosecutor, I have extensive experience handling assault charges throughout Central New Jersey, including Middlesex County, Burlington County, and Mercer County. Call met at (609) 587-3250, or complete my online form.