A charge of simple assault should not be taken lightly. It is a violent offense and is taken very seriously by the courts. A defendant charged with simple assault may face fines as well as jail time if convicted. A charge of simple assault may be upgraded to aggravated assault, depending on the circumstances of the case. Aggravated assault carries much harsher penalties, such as higher fines and longer jail time. The prospect of navigating the complex justice system in Atlantic City can be daunting and overwhelming. An experienced Atlantic City simple assault defense lawyer can help you defend your rights in court against a simple assault charge.
A defendant faced with simple assault charges should contact an attorney to assist them on their case. An attorney can help a defendant prepare for trial, negotiate plea agreements, and fight for the best possible outcome for their client. If you have been charged with simple assault, contact an attorney at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.
What is Simple Assault in Atlantic City?
While many other states use terms such as “felony” and “misdemeanor,” Atlantic City and the rest of New Jersey use the terms “disorderly persons offense” and “indictable offense” to describe misdemeanors and felonies, respectively. Simple assault falls under the category of disorderly persons offense and is less serious than an indictable offense.
Simple assault is a violent offense in which the defendant causes bodily harm or seeks to cause bodily harm to the victim. Simple assault occurs when a defendant purposely, knowingly, or recklessly harms or attempts to harm the victim. It may also occur when harm is caused negligently rather than on purpose. Simple assault may also occur when a defendant uses “physical menace” to put the victim in fear of bodily harm, but the harm does not actually have to happen.
In many cases, simple assault charges stem from arguments or confrontations that escalate into physical altercations and fights. The more an altercation escalates, and the more harm that is caused, and the more likely it is the charge will become more serious.
Simple Assault vs. Aggravated Assault in Atlantic City
Aggravated assault is somewhat similar to simple assault, however, the harm caused to the victim is usually greater, and the charge is therefore a more serious indictable offense. Aggravated assault may occur under any number of different circumstances. Typically, this is deemed more serious due to the severity of harm caused, the use of a weapon, or the perceived depravity of the defendant.
The following are all examples of when simple assault becomes aggravated assault.
- When the defendant attempts to cause serious bodily injury, or they do so purposely or knowingly or under conditions demonstrating “extreme indifference to the value of human life.”
- When the defendant knowingly or purposely uses a deadly weapon.
- When the defendant recklessly uses a deadly weapon.
- When the defendant knowingly points a gun at someone else, regardless of whether they believed it to be loaded or not.
Alternatively, aggravated assault may be no different than simple assault, but the victim falls under a protected category of persons that cause the offense to be upgraded. Potential victims who upgrade simple assault to aggravated assault in Atlantic City include, but are not limited to, law enforcement officers, firefighters, someone rendering emergency aid, teachers, judges, and health care workers.
Penalties for Simple Assault in Atlantic City
Defendants convicted of simple assault in Atlantic City are sentenced in much the same way as those convicted of any other disorderly person offense. Ordinarily, the defendant will be sentenced to jail time of no more than six months. They may also be ordered to pay fines of up to $1,000. Simple assault does not usually carry overly harsh penalties, but these penalties become much more severe if the charges are upgraded to aggravated assault.
Aggravated assault, depending on the circumstances, may be an indictable offense of the second, third, or fourth degree. A second degree offense carries a prison term of 5 to 10 years. A third degree offense carries a prison term of 3 to 5 years. Finally, a fourth degree offense carries a prison term of no more than 18 months.
Defenses to Simple Assault in Atlantic City: Self-Defense and Defense of Others
One possible defense to a simple assault charge is the claim of self-defense. Under New Jersey law, a person may use force to defend themselves against an unlawful attack by another person. However, this use of force must be reasonable under the circumstances. Using deadly force, such as a gun or a knife, to defend yourself against a non-deadly attack would not be considered reasonable and therefore could not justify a self-defense claim.
Another possible strategy would be to claim you were defending someone else. A defendant may argue that their use of force was justified because they were defending someone else against an unlawful use of force. However, similar limitations apply to this argument as the self-defense claim: unreasonable or deadly uses of force to defend a third party are usually unacceptable.
Call for a Free Legal Consultation with Our Atlantic City Simple Assault Defense Lawyers
Simple assault is incredibly serious, and your case should be handled with extreme caution. Simple assault may not seem like much compared to other crimes, but if the charge is upgraded to aggravated assault, you could be looking at years in prison and a hefty fine. Depending on your circumstances, your best option could be to negotiate a plea deal and plead guilty, fight the charges at trial, or something else entirely. To help you determine what course of action is best for you, and to help protect your best interests, contact an Atlantic City simple assault defense attorney at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. Call (609) 616-4956 to schedule a free legal consultation.