Aggravated assault is a very serious crime in New Jersey. When you are accused of committing aggravated assault in NJ, your liberty is on the line.
Aside from the stigma associated with a conviction, you could face years in prison, an extremely high fine, and will find it quite difficult to hold down a steady job after your employer finds out about the conviction.
Consequently, it is vital for you to contact an experienced NJ criminal defense attorney who can help you keep your criminal record clean, keep you out of prison, and defend your legal rights.
What is Aggravated Assault?
In New Jersey, you can face charges for simple assault or aggravated assault. As you can probably tell just from the name, aggravated assault is more serious.
The aggravated assault statute in New Jersey is exceptionally complex and can be quite confusing. Therefore, we have broken it down piece by piece in order for you to get a clearer understanding of what really counts as aggravated assault in New Jersey.
According to N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b), there are eleven ways you can be found guilty of aggravated assault:
- If you cause or attempt to cause serious bodily injury to another individual purposely, knowingly, or under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to the value of human life
- If you cause or attempt to cause—either purposely or knowingly—bodily injury to another person with a deadly weapon
- If you recklessly cause bodily injury to another person with a deadly weapon
- If you knowingly (and under circumstances that manifest an extreme indifference to the value of human life) point a firearm at or in the direction of another person, whether you know it is loaded or unloaded
- If you commit simple assault against any of the following people during the scope of their employment:
- Law Enforcement Officer
- EMT/EMS Responder
- School Board Member, Teacher, School Administrator, School Bus Driver, or Any Other Public or Private School Employee
- DYFS Employee
- Member of the Judiciary (i.e. Judges and Justices)
- Bus Driver, Train Conductor, or Other Employee of a Rail Passenger Service
- Department of Corrections Employee or Other Jail Employee
- Utility or Cable Company Employee
- Health Care Worker
- Direct Care Worker at a Psychiatric Hospital or Center
- If you cause bodily injury to another person while fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer or while committing a theft crime
- If you cause or attempt to cause significant bodily injury to another individual or knowingly (or under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life) or recklessly cause such significant bodily injury
- If you cause bodily injury by knowingly or purposely starting a fire or an explosion that results in bodily injury to emergency services personnel
- If you knowingly—and under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life—point or display a firearm at or in the direction of a law enforcement officer
- If you knowingly point, display, or use an imitation firearm at or in the direction of a law enforcement officer with the purpose to intimidate, threaten, put the officer in fear of bodily injury, or for any unlawful purpose
- If you use or activate a laser sighting system or device (or a system or device that would cause a reasonable person to believe that it is a laser sighting system or device) against a law enforcement officer
Penalties and Fines
The penalties and fines for aggravated assault are starkly different than those for simple assault. Aggravated assault in NJ is either a second, third, or fourth degree crime.
Essentially, the statutory provision that you violate and the severity of your actions will determine which degree you are charged with:
- Fourth Degree Crime: Up to 18 Months in Prison & Up to $10,000 Fine
- Third Degree Crime: 3-5 Years in Prison & Up to $15,000 Fine
- Second Degree Crime: 5-10 Years in Prison & Up to $150,000 Fine
Make sure to contact an experienced NJ criminal defense attorney to see which degree your conduct might have fallen into.
Case Law and Common Defenses to Aggravated Assault
Aside from self-defense and having a mental disease or condition (which we discussed in our Simple Assault section), a skilled criminal defense attorney can raise defense of others to help you avoid a conviction for aggravated assault.
According to N.J.S.A. 2C:3-4:
- “The use of force or deadly force upon or toward an intruder who is unlawfully in a dwelling is justifiable when the actor reasonably believes that the force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself or other persons in the dwelling against the use of unlawful force by the intruder on the present occasion.”
Also, when defending another person, you are only allowed to provide assistance if he or she would have had the legal right to use force to protect himself or herself (i.e. if self-defense were justified).
Remember, this defense only requires your attorney to show that there was a “reasonable appearance” of the right to use force. In other words, it does not actually have to be the case.
Furthermore, if you are using force in order to defend your property, you may also be able to avoid a conviction for aggravated assault.
Under N.J.S.A. 2C:3-6:
- “The use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable when the actor is in possession or control of premises or is licensed or privileged to be thereon and he reasonably believes such force necessary to prevent or terminate what he reasonably believes to be the commission or attempted commission of a criminal trespass by such other person in or upon such premises.”
However, defense of property can only be invoked if you told the trespasser or aggressor to desist from interfering with your property.
Furthermore, you will not be permitted to use deadly force to save your property alone. You must first have a reasonable belief that the trespasser or aggressor is going to use deadly force against you.
In certain circumstances a “mistake of fact” defense could also be used. A mistake of fact defense can only be used if it negates intent.
For instance, imagine you just slapped your buddy really hard on the back after he said something insulting to you. It turns out that the area you slapped was an old army injury and now, due to your slap, he collapsed on the floor in agony!
You obviously had no idea about the injury, and, had you known, you would never have slapped him in the first place. This set of facts could give rise to a mistake of fact defense that might help you avoid (or at least lessen the blow of) an assault conviction.
Remember, it is crucial to hire an experienced NJ criminal defense attorney who knows when and how to raise these sorts of defenses and how to protect your legal rights.
Who Should You Contact?
If you or a loved was recently charged with aggravated assault in New Jersey, contact Adam H. Rosenblum of The Rosenblum Law Firm today. Mr. Rosenblum is a skilled criminal defense attorney who has helped people in similar situations. He will defend your constitutional rights and do what he can to have your aggravated assault charges dismissed. E-mail or call him today at 888-815-3649.