Wildwood is a very popular beach destination town in Cape May New Jersey, and while the summer may bring thousands of eager beach-goers people often forget that for over 5,000 people this popular destination is their home. Like any town or city in the country, Wildwood has its own police department, post office, elected officials and crimes. One of the most frequently cited crimes in Wildwood and throughout New Jersey is assault. Assault in New Jersey is codified under NJSA §2C:12-1 and is composed of two separate charges, one for simple assault and one for aggravated assault.
What is NJSA 2c:12-1 Simple Assault?
A Simple assault is defined in NJSA § 2C:12-1 and entails either knowingly or negligently causing bodily harm or putting a person in fear of bodily harm. The statutory language provides that, a person commits a simple assault if he attempts, by physical menace, to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury. In order to find that a person has committed a simple assault, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant purposely attempted to put a person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
- The defendant did so by physical menace.
It is important for anyone who has been charged with a simple assault to understand that the State and not the person who is accused must prove each o f these elements. As to the first element, serious bodily injury means bodily injury, which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ. Another important component of this charge is that the defendant must have meant to cause the person imminent serious bodily harm. In this context, imminent means that the event is likely to happen without delay.
In most cases simple assault crimes in New Jersey are classified as disorderly persons offenses. Disorderly persons offenses are a lower-level crime that can be punished with a fine of up to $1,000, restitution, or both. If the simple assault charge is due to a consensual altercation or fight, then it is considered a petty disorderly persons offense. However in certain circumstances, simple assault can be charged as a fourth-degree crime which can result in the imposition of an eighteen-month prison sentence. These circumstances include when the injury is inflicted by the employee of a care facility against an institutionalized senior citizen or when in the presence of a child under age 16 at a community or school-sponsored youth sporting event.
What is Aggravated Assault in NJ?
Under the New Jersey law for assault, aggravated assault is the more serious offense. A person is guilty of aggravated assault if he . . . attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another, or causes such injury purposely or knowingly or under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life recklessly causes such injury.
To find the defendant(s) guilty of aggravated assault for causing serious bodily injury to another, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt each of the following elements:
- That the defendant(s) caused serious bodily injury to another; and
- That the defendant(s) acted purposely or knowingly or acted recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.
In addition to causing seriously bodily injury, the state must also prove that the person acted purposefully or knowingly, or acted recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life. Under the statute, a person acts purposefully with respect to the result of their conduct if it is their conscious object to cause such a result. In addition to the above a person can be charged with aggravated assault in any one of the following scenarios:
- Recklessly shooting off a gun where the bullet accidentally strikes an observer or passerby. In these circumstances, aggravated assault would likely be considered a fourth-degree crime.
- If the defendant causes an injury while fleeing from law enforcement, the individual can be charged with a second-degree crime.
- The individual knowingly pointed or brandished a real or imitation firearm at a law enforcement officer.
- A driver who drives aggressively while targeting another person or vehicle may be charged with a third or fourth-degree crime depending on the severity of injuries inflicted.
- When an individual commits simple assault against certain protected individuals in the state. These protected individuals can include firemen, police officers & law enforcement officials, justices of the courts, department of corrections employees, certain health care workers, and others.
- Individuals who purposefully cause a law enforcement official to come in contact with a bodily fluid can be charged with fourth-degree aggravated assault.
While aggravated assault charges can arise in many more circumstances, the penalties you face are always based on the degree of crime charged. For a second degree charge, you can face a prison sentence of five to ten years and fines of up to $150,000. A third-degree charge can result in a three to five-year prison sentence and significant monetary fines. A fourth-degree charge can, upon conviction, be punished by up to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
What is Extreme Indifference to Human Life?
The phrase “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life” does not focus on the state of mind of the person who has been accused of committing an aggravated assault, but rather on the circumstances under which the jury would find that they acted. If in light of all the evidence, the jury finds that the conduct of the defendant(s) resulted in a probability as opposed to a mere possibility of serious bodily injury, then the jury may find that a person acted under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life. In determining whether the defendant(s) acted purposely or knowingly or acted recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, the jury may consider the nature of the act(s) itself (themselves) and the severity of the resulting injury (injuries).
Where are Most Assault Cases Heard in Wildwood?
Since assault is separated into two separate offenses, you should be prepared to either go to municipal court or to county court depending on what you have been charged with. If you have been charged with simple assault then you will most likely have your case heard in the municipal court. The Wildwood Municipal Court is located at:
Municipal Court address:
115 West Davis Avenue,
Wildwood, NJ 08260
However, if you have been charged with aggravated assault you will likely have your case heard at the Cape May County Courthouse which is located at:
Cape May County
9 North Main Street
Cape May Court House, NJ 08210
Our Wildwood, NJ Assault Defense Attorneys Can Help
Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer will provide you with peace of mind knowing that your case is being handled by someone who is familiar with the legal system and the criminal process in New Jersey and Wildwood. We have successfully handled many assault cases throughout Atlantic County, Cape May County and beyond. If you or someone you know is in need of assault defense, contact an experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer about your case by calling (609) 616-4956 or contact us online. Lawyers are available to discuss your concerns seven days a week, 24 hours a day, including holidays.