When arguments break out, misunderstandings can escalate into violence. Many assault charges are excessive, and they are charged when simple disorderly conduct charges might suffice. If you or a loved one was arrested for assault in Ocean County, you could be facing serious penalties. It is important to talk to an attorney about your case to see what you can do to avoid jail time and high fines.
The Ocean County assault defense lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent those charged with assault and other offenses in Ocean County and throughout South and Central Jersey. For a free consultation on your case, contact our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.
N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-1 Assault Charges in Ocean County, NJ
New Jersey’s criminal code has a wide range of assault crimes. Many of these are tailored to specific situations, specific victims, or particular uses of a weapon in the assault. In most cases, assault is either charged as “simple assault” or “aggravated assault,” depending on the surrounding circumstances and severity of the injuries. Assault by auto is also charged in cases of especially severe car accidents, DWI crashes, or intentional attacks using a vehicle.
Both simple assault and aggravated assault make it illegal to hit or otherwise attack another person. More specifically, assault charges cover any of these situations:
- Intentionally causing someone else physical injury,
- Causing someone else injury with a deadly weapon, or
- Using “physical menace” to put another in fear of harm.
For simple assault, the injuries need to be “bodily injury.” This means “physical pain, illness or any impairment of physical condition.” That could include things like bruises or injuries that continue to cause pain after the attack. Minor blows from simple punches or kicks that to do not leave bruises or more serious injuries may not be severe enough to constitute “bodily injury” and could justify dropping assault charges.
For aggravated assault, the injuries must be “serious bodily injury,” which include a “substantial risk of death,” or permanent/ongoing loss of function or disfigurement. This is a much higher level of injury for the government to prove.
If the assault involved a deadly weapon, that might not automatically justify aggravated assault charges. If you are careless and negligently cause someone else injuries (e.g. by accidentally firing a weapon or slicing someone with a sharp object), that may justify simple assault charges. For the use of a deadly weapon to result in aggravated assault charges, the government needs to prove that you intentionally caused the harm. Alternatively, they can accuse you of pointing a firearm at someone with indifference to the fact that it could kill, even if you think the gun is unloaded.
Penalties for Assault in Ocean City, NJ
Before you can face any penalties for assault or any other crime, the government must prove that you committed the crime. This means proving each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. It is especially difficult for the government to prove your mental state, and your attorney may be able to fight the accusations that any strikes or attacks were intentional, especially if the “assault” occurred in a crowded place. In addition, arguing that the injuries were not severe enough to constitute assault charges could mean beating the charges against you.
If you are convicted for assault, you could face substantial jail time and fines. Most simple assault cases are disorderly persons offenses. If the injuries occurred during a fight both parties consented to, they are petty disorderly persons offenses, instead. Both of these are punished with up to 6 months in jail with fines up to $1,000 for a disorderly persons offense and up to $500 for a petty disorderly persons offense.
More severe assault charges vary depending on the circumstances. For instance, assault by auto (vehicular assault) is usually a fourth degree crime, whereas any assault that causes serious bodily injuries can be a second degree crime. Offenses classified as fourth, third, or second degree crimes carry the following penalties:
- A second degree crime carries 5-10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000.
- A third degree crime carries 3-5 years in prison and fines up to $15,000.
- A fourth degree crime carries up to 18 months in prison and fines up to $10,000.
If you are convicted of an assault crime, these penalties only give you a starting idea of what your penalties could be. Your final sentence will depend on numerous factors regarding how the crime occurred as well as personal factors like how jail time would affect your job, your family life, and other factors. In many cases, judges and prosecutors may be willing to be lenient for first offenses, downgrading the charges to simple assault instead of aggravated assault or even dropping assault charges if you perform community service, anger management classes, or other rehabilitative programs.
Our Ocean City Assault Defense Lawyers Can Help
If you or a loved one is facing simple assault or aggravated assault charges in Ocean County, call The Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 616-4956. Our attorneys have decades of experience working in criminal law and can help defend you on your assault charges. For a free consultation on your case, contact our Ocean County assault defense attorneys today.