The terms “simple assault” may sound insignificant but, in New Jersey, simple assault is a violent criminal offense. If convicted, you could receive up to six months in jail and fined over $1,000. A conviction for simple assault can have a major impact on your rights, your previously clean criminal record, your current or future employment, and your education. Clark, Clark & Noonan, LLC has secured numerous dismissals for assault cases.
Simple Assault in New Jersey: NJSA 2C: 12-1a
Simple assault in New Jersey is only simple in name. Simple assault is a disorderly persons offense (other states refer to it as a misdemeanor offense) and covers a wide range of conduct including acts which are intentional as well as acts which are considered reckless.
As already stated above, a conviction can be punishable by up to six months in jail. Whether it is a disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly, the charges could have a profound effect on your future and your rights.
Simple Assault Definition
The formal definition of simple assault is as follows:
Simple assault. A person is guilty of assault if he:
(1) Attempts to cause or purposely, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another; or
(2) Negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon; or
(3) Attempts by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
Simple assault is a disorderly persons offense unless committed in a fight or scuffle entered into by mutual consent, in which case it is a petty disorderly persons offense.
Bodily injury is defined in a separate statute as physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.
You Are Allowed to Defend Yourself
You have the right to defend yourself if you are attacked. No one has the right to assault, punch, hit, kick, shove or use any other type of physical violence against you, your family members, or significant others.
We are experienced in asserting self-defense in many of our cases where our clients were either protecting themselves, friends or family members from actual or imminent physical injury.
In most assault cases, the police are stuck with relying on eyewitnesses and “alleged victims” who will have numerous reasons to lie about what actually happened or may have a poor memory of the actual event.
Under New Jersey law, if the police see signs of any physical injury to someone who claims they are a victim, then they are obligated to make an arrest even if you acted in self-defense and even if no one was really hurt. If you acted in self-defense, there is a good chance your case will be dismissed after trial or during plea negotiations.
Use of Force in Self-Protection
The technical name for self-defense in New Jersey is “Use of Force in Self-Protection” and is located at NJSA 2C: 3-4. The law reads as follows:
“Use of force justifiable for protection of the person. Subject to the provisions of this section and of section 2C:3-9, the use of force upon or towards another person is justifiable when the actor reasonably believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of unlawful force by such other person on the present occasion.”
There are limitations to the use of force in self-protection. For example, self-defense may not be available to you when you use a weapon to defend yourself against an unarmed person depending on the circumstances.
You cannot use force against a police officer in order to resist an arrest regardless of whether or not you think he has lawful grounds to arrest you. Additionally, a person using force in self-defense cannot use more force than that which he reasonably believes is necessary to repel the attack.
The State Has the Burden of Proof
You may have been charged with simple assault in New Jersey and be worried because you’re not sure you even have a defense. But it is the state – the prosecutor – who has to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The prosecutor has to subpoena witnesses and the alleged victim, and they will have to provide testimonial evidence before the judge to prove each and every element of the offense against you beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecutor presents insufficient evidence, or the witness testimony is inaccurate, not credible, or unbelievable, you may be found not guilty.
Possible Penalties for Assault Convictions
- Fines and court costs
- Jail time
- Loss of the right to own or possess a firearm or weapon
- Mandatory anger management classes
- Probation and electronic monitoring
- Restitution to the victim
New Jersey laws (N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1) allows the charges of simple assault to be filed under the following conditions:
- If a person attempts to cause bodily injury to another person, or who recklessly, knowingly, or purposely causes bodily injury to someone else
- If bodily injury is negligently caused with a deadly weapon
- If someone threatens another person or puts them in fear of serious bodily injury through physical menace (i.e., pointing a gun or waiving a knife)
For a physical act to be considered assault, the victim does not need to have sustained lasting injuries; the assault may simply cause temporary pain or discomfort or present a physical threat, and any unwanted or offensive physical contact can be considered assault.
Factors That Can Affect Charges and Penalties
- The unique circumstances of your crime
- Where the assault took place
- If the assaulted person was a minor or on school property
- If there was bodily injury
- The skill and experience of your defense attorney
- If you have a prior history of convictions, or, if other charges are being brought against you at the same time
Situations Where You Can Be Charged with Aggravated Assault
Aggravated assault, a more serious charge than simple assault, and can be charged as a 2nd degree offense, a 3rd degree offense, or as a 4th degree offense. How you are charged will depend upon many things; however, if any of the following conditions exist, you can be charged with the more severe crime of aggravated assault:
- The assault was against an officer, security guard, fireman, or any public official including judges, teachers, certain employees, etc.
- The assault was against a family member
- There was serious bodily injury to the victim
- A deadly weapon was used in the assault
- You threaten someone with a gun or point it at someone
- The assault occurred while eluding or attempting to elude an officer or while resisting arrest
Simple Assault and Aggravated Assault Resources
- New Jersey Criminal Statutes – N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.a. Simple & Aggravated Assault
- New Jersey Criminal Statutes – 2C:43-1.Degrees of crimes
- Aggravated assault jail times: What are the prison terms for simple assault?
A simple assault charge carries a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail term of six months.