What it Means to be Charged with Simple or Aggravated Assault

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Assuming that you are not acting in lawful self-defense, attacking another person, attempting to do so, and a host of other conduct can result in a criminal conviction for assault in New Jersey. If you harm someone badly in that attack, you may even be convicted of aggravated assault, a more serious assault offense. The legal process that applies to an aggravated assault case differs from a simple assault case in many ways. If you have been charged with simple assault or aggravated assault in Union County, NJ, it is imperative understand the separate legal procedures that apply to each and how this will affect your case. Our criminal defense attorneys are here to answer additional questions applicable to your specific assault charge anytime, so please contact us at (908) 838-0150 for a free consultation.

What Is the Difference Between Simple Assault and Aggravated Assault?

Assault is not one crime under New Jersey law, but two. These charges are contained in the same statute, but technically simple assault and aggravated assault are two separate crimes. Simple assault is criminalized by NJS 2C:12-1, a statute which prohibits attempting to cause bodily injury to someone else, attempting to frighten or menace another person with the threat of serious and imminent injury to their body, negligently causing bodily injury to someone using a deadly weapon (which is defined as any object that can cause death, from a gun to a knife to a rock to a number of other objects), or recklessly, purposely, or knowingly causing injury to the body of another person. Violations of NJS 2C:12-1 are normally charged as disorderly persons offenses, similar to misdemeanors in other states.

Aggravated assault, on the other hand, applies to actions even more serious than those criminalized by the simple assault statute. You can be charged and convicted for aggravated assault if you attempt to or cause serious bodily injury to another person purposely, knowingly, or in a way that demonstrates that you acted recklessly and with extreme indifference to the value of human life; if you attempt to or purposefully or knowingly cause bodily injury to another person with a deadly weapon, recklessly cause bodily injury to someone else with a deadly weapon, or point a firearm at someone else; or if you commit simple assault against protected categories of people like police, firemen, judges, and various other less obvious categories of persons, including bus drivers. Aggravated assault is typically charged as an indictable offense similar to a felony in states outside New Jersey.

For example, if you get into a fight with your neighbor on your front lawn, go into the house, retrieve a baseball bat, walk back up to your neighbor, and threaten to break his kneecaps with the baseball bat, you have likely committed simple assault (threatening to cause bodily injury with a deadly weapon). If you punch your neighbor and break his nose, you have again likely committed simple assault. If you actually follow through on your threat and break his kneecap with your baseball bat, you have likely committed aggravated assault (causing seriously bodily injury to another person purposefully). If your neighbor is a policeman, all of the above acts may constitute aggravated assault.

What if I’m Arrested for Assault in Union County, NJ?

Disorderly persons charges like simple assault are prosecuted in municipal courts. In simple assault cases, a law enforcement officer will typically file a complaint against you; you will receive a summons to appear in court to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, and your case will then proceed through pretrial motion practice and trial. You are much less likely to be held in custody on a simple assault case pending trial than you are on an aggravated assault case However, given that simple assault is still a crime of violence, you are not guaranteed pretrial release. As a rule, anyone charged with simple assault as an act of domestic violence must be detained and have a pre-trial detention hearing before being released from jail.

The legal process applicable to an aggravated assault charge can be very different from the process described above in connection with simple assault. Typically, an aggravated assault complaint from law enforcement will result in the issuance of a warrant that can lead to the police going out to look for you, arresting you, and bringing you to court. When you appear in court on an aggravated assault charge, you stand a chance of being held in jail prior to your trial. Given the public safety risks associated with serious crimes of violence, you need a lawyer who can zealously argue for pretrial release based on the facts of your case. Aggravated assault results in an indictable offense that must be approved by a grand jury. In this process, prosecutors will put on evidence for the grand jury, and if the grand jury finds enough evidence to support the crime charged, they will return an indictment against you. Your case will then proceed in Superior Court, where you can enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, review a plea offer if one is offered, and then proceed to pretrial hearings and possibly trial.

Get Help with a Cranford Assault Case

Given that both simple assault and aggravated assault are crimes of violence that can subject you to months or years in prisons and significant or even life-altering fines, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney if you have been arrested and charged with either crime. A knowledgeable Union County criminal defense lawyer at our firm can provide further information based on the specific facts of your case. Call us at (908) 838-0150 for a free consultation.

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.