In the State of New Jersey, the crime of hitting someone else is called “assault.” Other states might have different names for this crime, such as “battery,” but the general conduct is the same.
If you have been charged with any type of assault in South Jersey, you might be worried about what happens next. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney can not only help you stay out of jail while you await trial, it can also help you try to get the case resolved without jail time. This guide is intended to help you understand the different crimes that are called “assault.”
After being charged with assault in South Jersey, seek support and guidance from our experienced assault defense lawyers by calling the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to review your case for free.
WHAT IS CONSIDERED “ASSAULT” IN NEW JERSEY?
N.J.S.A § 2C:12-1 is where the definition of “assault” can be found in New Jersey’s laws. Subsection a. of this statute defines “simple assault” as any of these three situations:
- Causing, either purposely, knowingly, or recklessly – or attempting to cause – the “bodily injury” of another.
- Negligently causing “bodily injury” to another with a deadly weapon.
- Attempting by “physical menace” to put someone else in fear that you will cause “serious bodily injury.”
Here are some quick examples of each of these, to give you an idea of what simple assault looks like:
- Punching someone in the face and knocking out a tooth. Alternatively, throwing a punch, but missing, may also count.
- Playing with a knife that slips from your hand and cuts someone.
- Yelling in someone’s face while placing your hands near their throat, even if you do not choke them.
“Simple assault” generally covers most cases where someone hits another person to injure them, but also covers attempt to hit and the imminent threat of hitting.
Subsection b. of the statute defines “aggravated assault.” Most times, when a crime has “aggravated” in its name, it is the same as the “simple” crime, but includes some extra or alternative element that makes the crime more dangerous. “Aggravated assault” includes any of the following situations:
- Causing, either purposely, knowingly, or recklessly – or attempting to cause – the “serious bodily injury” of another. If it was done recklessly, it must also be done “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.”
- Attempt or intentional “bodily injury” to another, with a deadly weapon
- Reckless “bodily injury” to another with a deadly weapon
- Recklessly pointing a gun at someone, whether you think it is loaded or not, “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.”
- A simple assault is upgraded to aggravated assault if the victim is:
- a law enforcement agent (e.g. police officer),
- a firefighter (paid or volunteer),
- any other emergency responder (e.g. EMT),
- a school board member,
- a Child Protection employee,
- a judge,
- a bus driver or rail operator,
- a prison guard,
- a utility worker (cable, power, water, gas, etc.),
- a healthcare worker (doctor, nurse, etc.), or
- a State psychiatric hospital worker.
- Causing injury to another while fleeing from police or in a stolen car
- When it’s a simple assault, but there is “significant bodily injury” instead.
- When firefighters or other responders are injured in a fire you started.
- When you point a gun at police “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.”
- Pointing a fake gun at police with the intent to scare them into thinking it is real.
- Pointing a weapon’s laser sight (like the red laser dots in movies) at police.
- Causing or attempting to cause “significant bodily injury” to a victim of domestic violence, “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.”
There are also separate crimes for when an assault occurs by the use of a car (including trucks, SUVs, etc) or vessel (including boats, jet skis, etc.). Assault crimes are also made worse if they occur at a sporting event for children under sixteen years old.
In these definitions, there are a few phrases that keep popping up. Here are some explanations of those phrases:
- “Under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life” means that the conduct is done in a way that shows the actor does not care if someone were to die from what he does. Things like firing a gun randomly into a crowd or beating/choking someone unconscious, then continuing to beat/choke them after they have gone limp, may count. Something must be truly careless and violent to fit this definition.
- “Bodily injury” means physical pain.
- “Serious bodily injury” requires that there is a pretty high risk of death involved, or risk of permanent injury.
- “Significant bodily injury” is injury that is severe enough to stop body function, such as knocking someone unconscious or cutting off a body part.
- “Physical menace” is physical intimidation.
Potential Defenses to Assault Charges in South Jersey
If you have been charged with assault, then there are multiple types of defenses that you may be able to employ. During your free case review, our assault defense lawyers can help determine if any of the following apply to your case:
You may be able to defend against assault charges by asserting that you acted in self-defense. This defense asserts that you acted to protect yourself from suffering harm.
To establish self-defense, you must demonstrate that you reasonably believed that you were in imminent danger of unlawful force, and your use of force was necessary to protect yourself. However, the force you employ to protect yourself must be proportional to the perceived threat.
Defense of Others
Defense of others is another potential defense to an accusation of assault. Similar to self-defense, this defense involves arguing that you acted to protect someone else from harm. In order to establish this defense, you must prove that you reasonably believed another person was in immediate danger. Further, you must show that your intervention was necessary to prevent that other person from suffering harm.
Defense of Property
Another potential defense to assault charges involves asserting the defense of property. If you can prove that you needed to use force to protect your property from being unlawfully taken or damaged, then you may avoid being convicted of assault. Similar to the aforementioned defenses, the amount of force you use to defend your property must be reasonable, and there are limits on what level of force you can use.
In some situations, you may be able to avoid an assault conviction by establishing that the victim consented to the physical contact at issue. This defense is often employed in cases where both parties consented to a fight. Also, this defense is used in cases involving contact sports where participants willingly engage in physical altercations.
Lack of Intent
Assault charges generally require proof of intent to cause bodily harm or apprehension of harm. Accordingly, if you can prove that you lacked the intention to cause harm and did not act recklessly, then it may weaken the prosecution’s case against you. Our experienced legal team can review your case to determine if you may assert that there was a lack of intent.
Another way to defend against an accusation of assault is by presenting an alibi. An alibi defense involves providing evidence that you were somewhere else during the time the alleged assault took place. This defense relies on establishing a credible and verifiable timeline that establishes you were absent from the scene of the crime.
Furthermore, you may defend against assault charges by asserting that there was a case of mistaken identity. In other words, you can prove that you were not the person responsible for the victim’s assault. Typically, you must present evidence like eyewitness testimony or surveillance footage to help support this defense. The team at our firm can help locate and present the evidence needed to support a claim for mistaken identity in your case.
Provocation is also a defense that can be employed by defendants in assault cases. This defense involves asserting that the alleged victim provoked your actions, leading to the assault at issue. In order to establish this defense, you must present evidence that demonstrates your response was incited by the victim’s provocative behavior.
Finally, you may defend against an accusation of assault by proving that you had a mental condition or impairment that prevented you from understanding the nature and consequences of your actions. Those who are mentally incapacitated may not have the ability to form the requisite intent needed for an assault conviction.
Common Locations Where Assaults Occur in South Jersey
There are certain locations where assaults are committed more frequently. The following are common examples of places where assaults occur in South Jersey:
Bars and Nightclubs
Bars and nightclubs often witness incidents of assault because of the consumption of alcohol. While impaired, people are more likely to get into altercations. The combination of crowded spaces, loud music, and heightened emotions often escalates disputes. Thankfully, after being accused of committing assault in a bar or nightclub, there are multiple defenses you can employ.
Domestic violence typically occurs within private residences. An accusation of domestic violence can severely disrupt your life. If you have been accused of committing assault in a domestic setting, it is crucial that you begin working on your defense right away.
Parking Lots and Garages
Parking lots and garages are known for their relative lack of surveillance and the potential for criminal activity. Assaults can occur when individuals are entering or exiting vehicles, making them vulnerable targets for robbery or personal attacks.
Assaults can happen on public transportation, including buses, trains, and subway systems. Factors such as overcrowding, anonymity, and the proximity of individuals in confined spaces can lead to tense situations and, in some cases, physical altercations.
Schools and Educational Institutions
Finally, assaults regularly occur in school settings. These forms of assault can involve altercations between students or between staff members. After being charged with an assault at school, our legal team can fight to have your charges eliminated or reduced.
CONTACT AN EXPERIENCED SOUTH JERSEY ASSAULT DEFENSE ATTORNEY
If you have been charged with simple assault, aggravated assault, assault by auto, or assault by vessel in South Jersey, and need an experienced criminal defense firm that will fight to get charges dropped and keep you out of jail, hire the Law Offices of John Zarych. For a free consultation, call (609) 616-4956.