Secaucus Assault Attorney
Assault Offense Attorneys in Secaucus, New Jersey
Secaucus has one of the highest crime rates in New Jersey, and violent crimes like assault, robbery, and murder have seen an alarming rise in recent years. The Secaucus Police Department has responded by cracking down on criminal activity, with a particular focus on certain heavily trafficked areas where violent crime is more likely to occur, such as Secaucus Junction Station, the Plaza at Harmon Meadow, the Harmon Cove Outlet Center, Hudson Regional Hospital, and neighborhoods near Secaucus High School. Anyone arrested by law enforcement in connection with a violent crime could be subject to misdemeanor or felony assault charges in Secaucus, New Jersey, especially because Hudson County prosecutors often look to discourage repeat offenders. Since the penalties for aggravated assault are severe and may include significant prison time, and simple assault can be extremely problematic for your life and your future as well, it is critically important that anyone accused of assault get help from a skilled Secaucus assault defense lawyer.
The criminal defense attorneys at William Proetta Criminal Law have substantial experience and a track record of successful results defending clients charged with simple assault, aggravated assault, assault on a police officer, harassment, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct in Secaucus, NJ and surrounding areas. To talk through what happened in your assault case and find out more about your avenues toward a successful defense result, contact our office for a free consultation at (201) 793-8018 today.
What Is Considered Assault?
When a person thinks of “assault,” they probably picture someone being violently attacked and suffering injuries that require hospitalization. While some assaults certainly do meet this definition, a lot of assault charges involve far less severe injuries and, in some cases, no injuries at all. In fact, some assault charges don’t even involve physical contact between the accused and the victim. That’s because New Jersey law is extremely broad when it comes to assault, and the law covers a wide range of actions and different types of assault. The two main types of assault in New Jersey are aggravated assault and simple assault.
Secaucus Aggravated Assault Charges
The most serious type of assault charge is for aggravated assault. As set forth by N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b) of the NJ Criminal Code, a person can be charged with aggravated assault in a number of different circumstances. Generally, the prosecutor may consider aggravated assault charges appropriate based on the severity of injuries suffered by the victim, the identity of the victim, or the presence of a weapon during the assault. The following are just a few examples of actions that can lead to aggravated assault charges in Secaucus:
- Causing serious bodily injury to another person. “Serious bodily injury” is typically defined to mean that the injuries were severe enough to put the victim at risk of dying or severe enough to result in paralysis or disfigurement that is unlikely to heal.
- Injuring someone while fleeing from the police. For example, you can be charged with aggravated assault if you are eluding law enforcement in a car and are then involved in an accident that injures the police officer or anyone else.
- Intentionally or recklessly causing bodily injury to someone while using a deadly weapon. Although “deadly weapon” is often interpreted to mean a handgun or knife, it is defined broadly so that a person can be charged with aggravated assault for intentionally using just about any object during a violent altercation, such as brass knuckles or a beer bottle. In other words, the use of a gun or other weapon will make the extent of the victim’s injuries irrelevant: you can be charged with aggravated assault simply for holding the weapon during the assault.
- Assaulting a public servant. Public servants such as police officers, firefighters, emergency medical responders, and public school teachers receive special protection under the law. Even if you did not cause any physical harm to the public servant, you can still be charged with aggravated assault merely for threatening imminent harm. Additionally, it is important to understand that there is never any legal justification for assaulting a police officer, even if you believe that the officer has no lawful reason to place you under arrest.
Charged With Simple Assault in Secaucus
Simple assault charges are addressed in the New Jersey Criminal Code by N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(a), which comes just before the part of the statute that covers aggravated assault charges. The biggest difference between a simple assault offense and an aggravated assault offense is that simple assault tends to result in less serious injuries – and, in some cases, no injuries at all. This means that the local police and prosecutor have significant latitude when deciding whether to pursue simple assault charges in your case. Here are a few of the most common actions that can give rise to Secaucus simple assault charges:
- Causing bodily injury to another person. Since “bodily injury” can be interpreted to mean just about any type of physical harm, pain, or illness, the statute casts a wide net for most simple assault charges. Additionally, it is not necessary for the prosecutor to prove that you intentionally injured the victim, but rather only that your actions were reckless and you ignored an obvious risk that the victim might be injured.
- Negligently causing bodily injury to someone while using a deadly weapon. If you used a handgun, knife, bottle, or pretty much any other object capable of causing injury, you could face simple assault charges. The standard of conduct for a simple assault charge in these cases differs from the standard in aggravated assault cases: instead of needing to show that you understood the consequences of your actions, the prosecutor merely needs to prove that your use of the weapon was “negligent” and that you should have known better.
- Threatening to cause imminent serious bodily injury. The criminal statute specifically prohibits the use of threatening words that would place the victim in fear for their physical safety. In other words, if a reasonable person might believe that you would act on your threat to cause physical harm, then you can be charged with simple assault.
Consequences of Being Convicted for Assault in Secaucus NJ
The penalties for assault are determined by the degree of the charges, which is directly related to whether the assault charge is classified as a felony or a misdemeanor. All aggravated assault charges in New Jersey are considered indictable offenses (i.e., felonies), while all simple assault charges are considered disorderly persons offenses (i.e., misdemeanors).
The degrees and penalties for assault in New Jersey are as follows:
- Second Degree: 5-10 years in state prison
- Third Degree: 3-5 years in state prison
- Fourth Degree: up to 18 months in state prison
- Disorderly Persons Charge: up to 6 months in jail
Aggravated assault can be classified as either a second, third, or fourth degree felony, depending on the circumstances of the assault. For example, an aggravated assault resulting in severe injuries is more likely to be charged as a second degree crime, while an aggravated assault resulting in less serious injuries may be charged as a fourth degree crime. The precise degree of your aggravated assault charge could make all the difference in the world because second degree assault charges have a presumption of incarceration. This means that if you plead guilty or are convicted at trial of second degree aggravated assault, you face a mandatory prison sentence. Moreover, since aggravated assault is listed in the No Early Release Act (NERA), you would be required to serve a minimum of 85 percent of your sentence before you become eligible for parole. The bottom line is that aggravated assault is classified as a felony and, as such, carries severe penalties. Fortunately, there are ways to get around a presumption of prison and these strategies can be employed by a talented criminal defense attorney when handling your case.
By contrast, simple assault is classified as either a disorderly persons offense or a petty disorderly persons offense, depending on whether the simple assault occurred during a fight that was entered into by mutual consent with the victim. However, it is possible for a simple assault charge to result in no jail time for the defendant because there is a presumption of non-incarceration for most cases handled at the municipal court level. Instead of sentencing the defendant to jail for simple assault, the Secaucus Municipal Court judge may be more open to issuing a suspended sentence or probation, impose a fine of up to $1,000, order the defendant to perform community service, and require the defendant to take anger management classes or undergo counseling.
Handling Secaucus Felony and Disorderly Persons Assault Cases
If you’ve been charged with assault in Secaucus, your case will be heard in either the Secaucus Municipal Court (located in the Secaucus Town Hall building) or the Hudson County Superior Court (located in Jersey City). Simple assault charges are handled at the Municipal Court level, while aggravated assault charges are handled at the Superior Court level. There are some important differences between the two courts, and this will affect how your assault case proceeds.
Since aggravated assault is classified as an indictable offense, you must first be indicted by a grand jury before you can be formally prosecuted at trial for aggravated assault in the Hudson County Superior Court. The local Secaucus authorities will send the case to the Superior Court, where the county prosecutor decides whether to seek a grand jury indictment. Only after an indictment has been issued can the prosecutor’s office and your attorney litigate the charges against you. Before that, you have multiple ways to resolve the case through negotiations and other options during your Pre-Indictment Conference and pre-trial proceedings. It is paramount that you have a skilled criminal lawyer handling your defense, as the consequences of a conviction at trial could be dire, especially when you’ve been charged with second degree aggravated assault, which has a presumption of incarceration.
The legal process for a disorderly persons charge like simple assault is much different. For starters, if you are charged with simple assault in Secaucus, the local prosecutor will not need to secure an indictment before having the case scheduled for trial. That trial, called a “bench trial,” would be held in the Secaucus Municipal Court, with a judge ultimately deciding your fate because there are no jury trials at the municipal court level. Although you still face possible jail time if convicted at trial, numerous defendants charged with simple assault are able to avoid incarceration. Moreover, a skilled criminal defense lawyer may be able to get your simple assault charges downgraded to a lesser charge, such as a municipal ordinance violation, or even dismissed altogether so that you can avoid ending up with a permanent criminal record.
Get Help From a Secaucus Assault Defense Lawyer Who Appears in Secaucus and Hudson County Courts
The unfortunate reality is that some prosecutors will intentionally overcharge a defendant with aggravated assault because they know it will be easier for them to later get the defendant to plead guilty to a reduced charge for simple assault. This matters a great deal because the penalties for aggravated assault are much more punitive than the penalties for simple assault. This is also probably the main reason why it is so important for anyone being investigated for assault in Secaucus, or anyone who has already been charged with assault in Hudson County, to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on their side.
An attorney who understands the law and who has defended clients in Secaucus and Hudson County Courts may be more effective at getting your aggravated assault charges downgraded to simple assault charges, or from simple assault to a lesser offense, which would significantly reduce the penalties you face and minimize your exposure to jail time. Depending on the evidence, there may even be ways to get the charges dismissed altogether. Contact the Law Office of William Proetta Criminal Law at (201) 793-8018 for a free consultation with one of our experienced Secaucus NJ Assault Defense Lawyers today.