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Simple and Aggravated Assault: Know the Difference

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Most people have a general idea of what “assault” means, but not everyone understands the difference between simple assault and aggravated assault. In New Jersey, the distinctions generally come from the degree of force involved; the nature of the injuries; the presence or absence of a weapon; and whether the victim is afforded special protection under New Jersey law.

Differentiating Between Simple and Aggravated Assault

Simple Assault
Assault is anything but simple. Simple Assault is a disorderly persons offense but will be downgraded to a petty disorderly persons offense if the assault occurred during a fight of mutual consent. Under New Jersey law, Simple Assault is committed when a person:

  • Attempts to cause or purposely, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another;
  • Negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon; or
  • Attempts by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.

Accordingly, a person can be charged with assault without even making physical contact with another person, so long as he or she attempted to cause harm or fear of serious bodily injury (substantial risk of death or permanent disfigurement) to another.

The penalties for being convicted of Simple Assault include up to $1,000 in fines, up to six months of jail time, probation, and other costs. Although a disorderly persons charge is referred to as an “offense” and is not considered a crime, the offense will still show up on a criminal record and is not eligible for expungement until a five year waiting period has passed. It is important to retain an experienced Assault Defense Lawyer in Mount Holly to carefully construct a defense in order to avoid or minimize the consequences.

Aggravated Assault
Aggravated Assault in New Jersey is a more serious offense and is extremely broad. Aggravated Assault can include, but is not limited to:

  • Attempting to cause or purposely, knowingly, or recklessly cause bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon;
  • Attempting to cause serious bodily injury to someone or causing such an injury purposely, knowingly, recklessly or negligently;
  • Committing simple assault on a protected person (law enforcement, EMS, judge, etc.) acting in their job; or
  • Committing simple assault in the presence of a child under the age of 16 at a school or community sponsored youth sports event.

A comprehensive list of the charges can be found in N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b.

There are varying degrees of aggravated assault, but they all carry severe penalties. A conviction may lead to jail time ranging from 18 months to ten years and fines ranging from $10,000 to $150,000.

A Mount Holly Assault Defense Lawyer Who Can Help

Assault is a violent crime and must be handled with care. If you’ve been charged with assault, contact Mark Catanzaro, the Mount Holly Assault Defense Lawyer, for a free consultation.


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