The criminal offense of assault can be broadly defined as when a defendant causes bodily harm to another person. Assault is committed purposefully, recklessly, or sometimes negligently, depending on the circumstances. Assault is not usually an accident, which is why convicted defendants tend to face harsh penalties. More minor assaults that result in less significant injuries are often charged as simple assault. Greater attacks on a victim, however, may be charged as a much more serious aggravated assault.
Assault charges, whether simple or aggravated, are no joke. These are crimes of violence, and a judge or jury is likely to show very little sympathy to a defendant. More serious assault charges could see you put in prison for a long time. On top of all that, an assault conviction will be reflected in your criminal history and may hinder you from getting certain jobs.
If you have been charged with assault, you should consult with an experienced attorney right away. Our Atlantic City assault defense lawyers are here to help you through this difficult and confusing time. We can help you understand the charges against you and craft the best defense possible for your situation. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to arrange a private, free consultation with our team.
The Difference Between Simple & Aggravated Assault Charges in Atlantic City
In New Jersey, assault can take two forms. The lesser charge is known as simple assault, while more serious assault allegations are typically charged as aggravated assault. These two offenses are very similar, but the degree of damage and injury involved in aggravated assault is usually much greater. Additionally, simple assault can be upgraded to aggravated if certain conditions, such as a particular type of victim, are present.
According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-1(a), there are at least three main archetypical simple assault scenarios. The first scenario is where an individual intentionally causes harm or intentionally attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another person. The second scenario is where the actor did not intend to bring about harm, but negligent or careless actions with a deadly weapon result in an injury. A deadly weapon is not limited to only traditional weapons like guns and knives. Rather, the object utilized is considered in the context of the alleged assaulter’s actions. For instance, a brick is not typically considered a weapon. However, if one were to throw the brick at another person as a projectile or otherwise use the brick as a weapon, it would likely be considered a deadly weapon under the circumstances. Finally, those who place another person in imminent fear of serious bodily harm can be charged with assault.
Most simple assault charges are charged as disorderly persons offense level. The maximum sentence of imprisonment authorized for a disorderly persons offense is six months, and the maximum fine authorized is $1,000.
Aggravated assault is more serious and is defined as a crime under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b). Generally speaking, aggravated assault involves causing or attempting to cause serious bodily injury or bodily injury with a deadly weapon. Additionally, an offense that would constitute simple assault when committed against certain persons acting in the performance of their duties, such as law enforcement officers, firefighters, D.Y.F.S workers, and judges, can be charged as an aggravated assault. Other scenarios where aggravated assault charges may be appropriate include:
- Knowingly, while under circumstances showing extreme indifference to human life, displaying or aiming a firearm at a law enforcement official.
- Intentionally driving a vehicle in an aggressive manner directed towards another individual or motor vehicle, resulting in a serious bodily injury.
- Committing simple assault against the driver or operator of a motorcoach or bus driver.
- When a bodily injury is caused due to an individual’s actual or attempted elusion of law enforcement officers.
Penalties for Simple and Aggravated Assault in Atlantic City
Simple assault is often charged as a disorderly persons offense. However, in specific circumstances, these charges could be downgraded to a petty disorderly persons offense. Such a circumstance would be if the assault occurred as part of a fight that both the victim and defendant entered mutually.
The penalties for simple assault as a disorderly persons offense include no more than 6 months in jail. If the charges are downgraded to a petty disorderly persons offense, you may face no more than 30 days in jail.
Depending upon the alleged circumstances, aggravated assault can be charged as a second, third or fourth-degree crime. Aggravated assault charges are dealt with in the Superior Courts.
A second-degree crime is also punishable by at least 5 years in prison but no more than 10. Second-degree aggravated assault is subject to the No Early Release Act, meaning that a person convicted must serve 85% of his or her prison sentence before being released on parole. Once released, the person is required to serve a minimum of three years on parole.
A third-degree aggravated assault crime is one step down from second-degree charges and comes with somewhat more lenient penalties. For third-degree aggravated assault, a convicted defendant may face a prison term of at least 3 years but no more than 5 years.
While still very serious, a fourth-degree crime is the lowest level of indictable crime and carries lighter penalties than those mentioned above. For fourth-degree aggravated assault, a convicted defendant may face a prison sentence of no more than 18 months.
If you are facing any charges for assault, call our Atlantic City assault defense lawyers for help. You may think your assault charges are no big deal, but multiple charges will add up to a very significant amount of time behind bars.
Building a Defense Against Assault Charges in Atlantic City
Assault charges require that a prosecutor prove all elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. If we can negate even just one element, we can raise enough reasonable doubt to fight your charges. In some cases, it may not be feasible to get your charges completely dismissed. In such cases, we can negotiate a plea agreement where you enter a guilty plea, but to reduced charges.
Both simple and aggravated assault charges require specific states of mind in the defendant. For example, both charges may require a defendant to act purposefully or knowingly. We can undermine your charges by demonstrating that the assault resulted from an accident rather than purposeful intent.
Simple assault may also require a negligent state of mind if a dangerous weapon is used. Negligence may consist of acting in the face of risk so great that you reasonably should have known about the risk. For example, accidentally shooting your friend in the foot with a gun you did not know was loaded could be a simple assault. If we can show that you were not negligent because you understood the risk and took steps to minimize that risk before acting, we may be able to challenge your charges.
Assault charges can become murky when a fight is involved, especially when both parties willingly entered the fight to begin with. It can be difficult to determine who was the initial aggressor and who reacted in self-defense. If your assault charges stem from a fight, we may challenge your charges by arguing the fight was started by the victim and you fought back only in self-defense.
There are numerous ways we could strategize your defense. Call our Atlantic City assault defense lawyers to get started on launching an effective defense to your charges.
Negotiating a Plea Agreement for Assault Charges in Atlantic County, NJ
Not every case will result in a dismissal of charges. However, even if your charges will not be dismissed, that does not mean the fight is over. Prosecutors frequently offer plea deals or plea bargains to defendants. A plea agreement involves the prosecutor reducing your charges in exchange for a guilty plea. You will waive your right to a trial and move directly to sentencing, but your charges will be lower and your sentence more lenient.
For assault charges, we may be able to negotiate an aggravated assault charge down to a simple assault. You may still have some fines and jail time to deal with, but it is much better than the years in state prison you would go through for aggravated assault. Plea agreements are the result of intense negotiation, and you will need a seasoned attorney to fight for you. Call our Atlantic City assault defense lawyers to talk about possible plea agreements.
Our Atlantic City Assault Defense Attorneys Can Help
Both simple and aggravated assault charges carry serious penalties and can have long-lasting effects on your life. If you are facing assault charges, contact our Atlantic City assault defense lawyers for assistance. We can help you challenge your charges or negotiate a favorable plea deal, whichever is best for your case. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to arrange a private, free consultation.