How Does New Jersey Define “Serious Bodily Injury” in Assault Cases

Assault is both a serious crime and a cause of a civil action in New Jersey. However, the type of assault that deals with actual injuries to your person is assault under New Jersey criminal law. Assault in civil cases refers to the threat of injury, not actual injury. In assault cases, there is a threshold for different kinds of injuries. One of the most important thresholds is the one for “serious bodily injury.”

By New Jersey statute, serious bodily injury is any injury that causes a substantial risk of death, permanent disfigurement, or loss of functionality in a part of the body for a long time or permanently. If you are convicted of assault that involves serious bodily injury to the victim, the penalties you face are likely to be much, much higher than if you were convicted of assault without serious bodily injury.

To get free, totally confidential legal help for your case, call The Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 and talk with our New Jersey assault defense lawyers.

What Constitutes Serious Bodily Injury in New Jersey?

Serious bodily injury is defined by statute under N.J.S.A. § 2C:11-1(b). Here, serious bodily injury is defined as an injury that creates a “substantial risk of death,” results in “permanent disfigurement,” or causes “protracted” loss of the use of an organ or appendage.

Serious bodily injury is one of the standards for aggravated assault under N.J.S.A. §2C:12-1(b)(1). The type of conduct that constitutes serious bodily injury is much more grisly than conduct that would be mere simple assault. “Bodily injury” is instead defined as physical pain, illness, or impairment per N.J.S.A. § 2C:11-1(b).

Stabbing someone multiple times certainly creates a “substantial risk of death” and would be considered serious bodily injury. This and similar crimes would lead to aggravated assault charges and likely an attempted murder charge as well. Things that cause permanent disfigurement are equally grim. For example, if a mob boss removes someone’s finger as punishment, that would be considered serious bodily injury and aggravated assault. An example of protracted loss of an organ or appendage would be losing the ability to walk after someone beats you up with a lead pipe.

Aggravated Assault in New Jersey

Chances are, if the prosecution is alleging that you gave someone serious bodily injuries, they are planning to charge you with aggravated assault. Therefore, it is worth knowing a thing or two about that statute. N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-1(b) makes it illegal to cause or attempt to cause serious bodily injury to another person. There are other things that also can lead to an aggravated assault charge under this statute, and we will go through them below.

Causing Serious Bodily Injury

Causing serious bodily injury – or attempting to do the same – will lead to an aggravated assault charge in New Jersey. The statute does not differentiate between a successful or failed attempt to cause serious bodily injury. For example, if you get in a bar fight, put on brass knuckles, and punch someone in the face, that is aggravated assault. If you try to punch the same person in the face and miss, that is still aggravated assault, even though you were unsuccessful in injuring the other person.

Bodily Injury with Deadly Weapons

The use of deadly weapons to cause mere “bodily injury” is also aggravated assault. You can be convicted of aggravated assault if you purposefully, knowingly, or recklessly cause injury to another with the use of a deadly weapon. For example, if you injure someone using the aforementioned brass knuckles, that injury does not need to rise to the level of “serious bodily injury” in order to be charged with aggravated assault.

Indifference to Human Life

It is also an aggravated assault to cause injury through actions indifferent to the value of human life. For example, if you blindly fire a gun into the air, it would be aggravated assault if the bullets hit someone.

Use of Firearms

If you point a firearm at someone, loaded or not, it is considered aggravated assault. For example, you can be convicted of aggravated assault, and probably some other crimes, too, if you take an unloaded gun up to someone’s car door and tell them to get out.

Notably, it does not matter whether the firearm is real or not. Pointing an imitation firearm, like a prop or airsoft gun, at someone is also aggravated assault.

How to Defend Against Aggravated Assault Claims in New Jersey

If you are accused of aggravated assault because the victim suffered serious bodily injury – or “mere” bodily injury but you used a weapon – you need a strong legal defense to combat the charges. What you want to do is poke holes in the prosecution’s case so that they are not able to convince the jury that you are guilty. Prosecutors can and will try to convict someone they think is guilty – even if you are not. Accordingly, it is important to know how to defend against charges, regardless of your actual guild.

Challenge the Facts

One of the best ways to defend against aggravated assault charges is to have rebuttals to what the prosecution alleges. For example, if the prosecutor alleges that the crime occurred in a park at night, but you were fast asleep and have evidence to prove it, that can help your case.

Disprove Elements

Another way to help defend against assault charges is to disprove elements of the prosecutor’s charge. For example, if the prosecution alleges that you held someone up at gunpoint, drawing your weapon from a clearly visible holster at your side, but you do not own a holster, that can put doubt on the veracity of the prosecutor’s claims. Alternatively, if you can prove that the injuries sustained by the victim do not meet the serious bodily injury threshold, the prosecutor cannot convict you of that crime.


Finally, it is never a bad idea to negotiate. Sometimes, prosecutors may lower the charges against you from aggravated assault to simple assault, or drop them entirely, if you work with them, but you should speak to our attorneys before taking that approach.

Start Working with Our New Jersey Assault Defense Lawyers Today

The Law Offices of John J. Zarych can be reached by calling 609) 616-4956, do not hesitate to speak with our New Jersey Assault Defense Lawyers about your situation.

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