When a defendant is convicted of a criminal offense, the court typically imposes a prison term as a range of years. While judges normally have some discretion about minimum and maximum terms, mandatory minimum sentencing laws make a certain amount of jail time unavoidable.
Simple assault is usually a disorderly person offense and is not subject to mandatory minimum sentencing. Aggravated assault, however, is more serious and may come with minimum prison terms. Also, laws like the No Early Release Act (NERA) and the Graves Act make sentencing harsher for violent crimes or those involving weapons. The problem with mandatory minimum sentences is that they are unavoidable upon conviction. The only way to get around them is to avoid a conviction or reduce the charges. Our legal team can help determine if your charges qualify for mandatory minimum sentencing.
Not every case of assault is eligible for mandatory minimum sentences, and you should talk to our New Jersey criminal defense lawyers to figure out what kind of penalties you might be facing. For a free review of your case, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.
How Long Can I Go to Jail for Assault in New Jersey?
Before you determine how long you might spend behind bars for an assault charge, you must understand what kind of assault charges you are facing. Assault charges fall into two broad categories: simple assault and aggravated assault. Our Atlantic City assault defense lawyers can help you fight either of these charges and hopefully avoid mandatory minimum sentencing. Below are the standard penalties for simple and aggravated assault. Once mandatory minimum sentencing requirements kick in, the penalties might be harsher.
Simple assault can be found under N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-1(a) and is often charged as a disorderly person offense, similar to a misdemeanor in other jurisdictions. Simple assault tends to be less dangerous and involves less physical harm or violence. Simple assault may be charged if the defendant allegedly purposely, knowingly, or recklessly causes or attempts to cause bodily injury to another, negligently causes injury with a deadly weapon, or attempts to cause fear of imminent bodily harm through physical menace.
According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:43-8, defendants convicted of disorderly person offenses may be sentenced to no more than 6 months in jail.
Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-1(b), aggravated assault may be charged when a defendant knowingly or purposely causes or attempts to cause serious bodily harm or causes bodily harm under circumstances amounting to extreme indifference to human life. Aggravated assault can also be charged if the defendant knowingly or purposely used a deadly weapon or harmed a specific type of person, like a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or emergency responder. Various other circumstances might give rise to aggravated assault charges, and you should discuss your case with our New Jersey assault defense lawyers.
Charges for aggravated assault are often assessed as second-, third-, or fourth-degree indictable crimes, depending on the details of the case. Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:43-6(a), a second-degree crime may be punished by at least 5 years and no more than 10 years in prison. A third-degree crime may be punished by no less than 3 years and no more than 5 years in prison. Finally, a fourth-degree crime may be penalized by up to 18 months in jail.
Mandatory Minimum Sentencing for Assault in New Jersey
According to N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6(b), the court may impose a higher mandatory minimum sentence for indictable crimes if the case’s aggravating factors substantially outweigh the mitigating details. Under the law, the mandatory minimum sentence may be up to one-half of the maximum term. So, if you are sentenced to a prison term of 7 to 10 years, the mandatory minimum sentence could be as much as 5 years. Our Wildwood assault defense lawyers can help you determine whether your case is subject to any mandatory minimum penalties.
Other laws can also affect how long a convicted defendant is required to remain in prison. For example, New Jersey’s No Early Release Act (NERA) requires convicted defendants to serve at least 85% of their sentences if convicted of violent crimes. So, if you are sentenced to a maximum of 10 years, you must serve at least 8.5 years in prison before being eligible for release. The NERA applies only to first and second-degree indictable crimes, so certain aggravated assault cases would fall under this act.
Also, assault cases involving deadly weapons might fall under the Graves Act, which eliminates the defendant’s eligibility for parole. With no possibility of parole, a defendant must serve the minimum imposed term of their sentence no matter what, and they cannot be released for good behavior.
New Jersey also has three-strikes laws that apply when a defendant is convicted of their third indictable crime. Suppose you are convicted of second-degree aggravated assault and have been convicted of two other indictable crimes before. In that case, you may be sentenced to an extended sentence of at least 10 years and up to 20 years in prison.
Can I Avoid Mandatory Minimum Sentencing for Assault Charges in New Jersey?
If your charges are subject to mandatory minimum sentencing requirements, there is no way to avoid jail time if you are convicted. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws are designed to remove a judge’s discretion when determining minimum sentences. They can also affect a defendant’s eligibility for early release or parole.
The best way to avoid a mandatory minimum sentence is to avoid a conviction or accept a plea deal that circumvents the mandatory minimum sentence. We can also work to reduce your charges to something that is not eligible for mandatory minimum sentencing. For example, suppose our Ventnor assault defense lawyers suppress key pieces of evidence in an aggravated assault case. In that case, we might convince prosecutors to reduce the charges to simple assault, which typically does not come with mandatory minimum sentencing.
Call Our New Jersey Assault Defense Lawyers for a Free Review of Your Case
Assault is a wide-ranging criminal charge that may encompass numerous alleged offenses, some of which might come with mandatory minimum penalties. Call our Sea Isle City assault defense lawyers about a free case review today. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.