In New Jersey, simple assault [N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(a)] is a violent crime. For the most part, simple assault one of the less severe violent crimes in the state, but a conviction can still lead to jail time, fines, and a criminal record. As such, any person charged with simple assault in New Jersey should contact a criminal defense lawyer to help get the charge either reduced or dropped.
What is Simple Assault in NJ?
New Jersey defines simple assault as:
Attempting to cause or purposely, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another; or
negligently causing bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon; or
attempting by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
As such, simple assault can include any kind of willful or negligent harm or the threat of harm to another. The most common type of simple assault is a fistfight.
Penalties for Simple Assault in NJ
Simple assault is a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey. As such, a conviction can result in up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If the charge is the result of a fight that both parties agree to, then it is a petty disorderly persons offense. In that case, the maximum penalties include up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
If the conditions meet the criteria for simple assault, but the act was conducted in the presence of a child (under 16), then the charge can be upgraded to aggravated assault, which is a much more serious offense. The same is true if the act is committed upon a police officer, school board member or school employee, bus driver, or certain other individuals.
Defenses to Simple Assault in NJ
The burden is on the prosecutors to prove whether a person is guilty of simple assault. A good defense may include poking holes in the prosecutor’s arguments, getting evidence thrown out, as well as presenting witness testimony on behalf of the accused. The exact defense will depend on the details of the case. In many cases, the best defense is to negotiate to reduce the charge to a lesser offense, preferably one that does not include jail time and/or result in a criminal record.
In State v. Murphy, 447 A. 2d 219, the defendant was arrested after drunkenly punching two police officers, one of whom sustained injuries to the eye. The defendant argued that the act did not meet the standard of simple assault because he did not intend or know that his effort to resist being arrested would result in injury. The prosecution asserted that while the defendant may not have known or intended to cause injury, he was intoxicated at the time and his intoxicated state was a form of “reckless” behavior. The judge agreed that this recklessness meets the standard for simple assault.
A First Offense of Simple Assault in NJ
While it is possible to go to jail for simple assault, the offense carries a presumption of non-incarceration for a first offense. This means in many cases, a person who has been convicted of simple assault may not be sent to jail. However, this by no means guarantees that a person will avoid jail time. Moreover, even if a person does not go to jail, a conviction means suffering myriad consequences far beyond the court-imposed penalties, such as the impact on one’s ability to get or keep a job, attend school, find a place to live, and more. This is just one of many reasons why, even for a first offense of simple assault, a person should hire a skilled criminal defense attorney who can negotiate the charge to a lesser offense of get it dropped.
Juveniles and Simple Assault in NJ
A person under the age of 18 is considered a juvenile in New Jersey. Juveniles charged with simple assault face different circumstances and possible penalties than adults. Youths who are convicted of simple assault can be adjudicated delinquent, which is similar to a criminal conviction for an adult. However, the penalties are not the same. Juveniles charged with simple assault are most often tried in Family Court, where the emphasis is on determining what is best for the child. This means taking into account the nature and circumstances of the offense, the child’s age, any prior offenses, unique needs of the child (medical, psychological, etc.), as well as how the child might respond to rehabilitative measures. While detention in a juvenile facility is a risk, it is also possible that the juvenile will be sentenced to one or more of the following: probation, community service, mental health counseling, drug rehabilitation treatment, suspension of driving privileges, or restitution. Hiring an attorney can ensure a juvenile accused of assault will not suffer unnecessarily harsh consequences.
Can I Use a Diversionary Program to Avoid a Conviction for Simple Assault?
New Jersey offers several diversionary programs to help individuals facing charges avoid a conviction. Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI), Conditional Discharge, and Conditional Dismissal are just some examples. Each has certain limitations regarding who can apply—for example, PTI requires that applicants not have a prior felony conviction, while conditional dismissal applies to those being charged in municipal court. The exact nature of the program will depend on the charge(s) and the defendant in question and can include requirements such as anger management counseling, community service, probation, and drug testing. Those who successfully complete a diversionary program in NJ will have the charges against them dismissed.
Not everyone who applies for a diversionary program will be accepted, so it is critical that one has an attorney to help ensure the best possible chances.
Expunging Simple Assault Convictions
A conviction for simple assault can be expunged from one’s criminal record provided the individual meets all other expungement requirements in NJ. Simple assault charged as a disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense can be expunged 5 years after completing sentencing and satisfying any fines or other conditions. In some cases, a person can apply for an early pathway expungement and have the offense cleared after just 3 years. However, the person applying cannot have more than 3 other disorderly persons convictions (4 total) or more than one indictable offense. It is beneficial to consult with an attorney before attempting to file for an expungement; an attorney with experience filing for expungements will be able to ensure that the paperwork is complete, accurate, and error-free. If a hearing relating to the expungement is required, then the attorney can represent the client and increase the odds of having the expungement granted.
Simple Assault in New Jersey | 2C:12-1(a)
Who Should I Contact?
If you or a loved one has been charged with simple assault or any other criminal offense in New Jersey, contact an attorney for help. The lawyers at Rosenblum Law are skilled criminal defense attorneys with experience helping people in similar situations. Email Rosenblum Law or call 888-815-3694 today for a free consultation about your case.