A person who makes harmful or offensive contact with another person may have committed a crime. While they may seem relatively mundane, acts such as punching someone, grabbing someone’s collar, or ripping something away from someone are all forms of battery and can result in criminal charges.
People often get into disputes that lead to physical altercations. This can happen even when no harm is intended by either party. However, if the police are called, charges may be filed. To avoid suffering unnecessary consequences of a minor incident, it is critical that one hire a skilled criminal defense attorney.
Assault vs. Battery in New Jersey
Although extremely similar, assault and battery are not entirely the same. In order to be guilty of a criminal battery, a person must have made physical contact with the person or an extension of that person (i.e. something he or she was holding, wearing, etc.).
In contrast, simple assault only requires the victim to be in imminent fear of battery. In other words, fear of being attacked might be enough to constitute simple assault, but it will not be a criminal battery.
Although assault and battery are technically different, New Jersey will charge a person with aggravated assault due to causing bodily injury if he/she committed criminal battery. Thus, the crime of battery really falls under the New Jersey assault statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1. Remember, one might have committed a battery, but the offense he/she will be charged with is aggravated assault, which is a second-degree crime.
Penalties and Fines
If someone gets in a fight and the police are called to break it up, he/she might be facing charges for aggravated assault. Make no mistake, this charge is serious and can dramatically impact the rest of one’s life.
Under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b), to intentionally or recklessly cause bodily harm to another with or without a deadly weapon is considered battery and aggravated assault. If convicted, depending on the seriousness of the circumstances, a person can face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000 (i.e. a second-degree crime).
How to Beat a Criminal Battery Charge
Self-defense is a valid defense against a charge of aggravated assault due to committing a battery. For example, someone eating at a restaurant who is attacked by an angry patron with a very sharp steak knife can legally knock the knife out of the attacker’s hand to avoid being injured. New Jersey recognizes self-defense as long as the force utilized was commensurate with (and never greater than) the force one was threatened with.
A person can also use force to defend his/her property. For example, if a man attempts to rob a woman of her purse, she can strike the person to protect her belongings from theft. Similarly, a homeowner could commit a battery upon a trespasser if it is reasonable that the homeowner believed the trespasser intended to damage or steal property.
An experienced lawyer can raise one of these types of defense (or others) and help present the case in the best light. It’s best not to gamble with something as important as one’s potential incarceration if found guilty.
Consider, too, there are times when going to trial is not the best strategy. An attorney will know when a case is worth the time, effort and risk of conviction that comes with heading to court. Sometimes, it is wisest for an attorney to negotiate a reduction of the charges to a lesser offense especially because it means a guaranteed outcome and can prevent more severe penalties like a criminal record and jail time.
Case Law Analysis
Consequences for a First Offense
Many people hope that if a case of aggravated assault due to committing battery is their first offense that they will get off with a light sentence or just probation. While this is possible, it is not a given. Aggravated assault is an indictable offense (i.e. felony), and judges and prosecutors take such charges seriously.
Moreover, the severity of the assault and injuries sustained will be taken into account. For example, a person who pulls on another’s hair may not be facing as serious a punishment as someone who smashes a glass bottle over another’s face. A judge will also consider what provoked the battery and how reasonable the reaction.
Regardless, the right defense strategy is one of the biggest difference makers in any battery case, whether it is one’s first offense or whether one has a criminal history.
Consequences for Juveniles
The exuberance of youth can cause emotions to boil over. Getting into fights is common among teens and even younger children. While it’s easy for kids to cross the line and cause serious harm to each other, it is equally possible for parents and prosecutors to get overzealous in pursuing criminal charges over simple fisticuffs.
Juveniles (those under 18) can find themselves facing years in a juvenile detention facility if that happens. And many times it shouldn’t. An experienced juvenile defense attorney can present a compassionate case with the best chance of avoiding or minimizing consequences.
Enrolling in New Jersey Diversionary Programs
Committing a battery means a person can be convicted of a felony and have a permanent criminal record. However, New Jersey has an option that can allow some to avoid a conviction. Called a Pretrial Intervention (PTI), this program allows a person to undergo a form of probation and other programs as ordered by a judge, such as anger management, alcohol abuse counseling, or community service. Those who complete the program can have the charges against them dropped—no conviction, no criminal record.
The courts tightly limit who is enrolled in a PTI, and not all who are eligible will be accepted. An attorney can advise whether a motion for a PTI is the right approach.
Expunging Battery (Aggravated Assault)
Aggravated assault, which is what a person can be convicted of when he/she commits a battery, is an indictable offense that goes on one’s criminal record. Thankfully, the offense is eligible for expungement if a person otherwise qualifies.
To petition to have one’s record expunged in New Jersey, one must have only a single indictable conviction on the record (with some limited exceptions). Also, the person cannot have more than three disorderly persons convictions.
Those who meet that criteria must then wait a period of time, usually 5 or 6 years (see the chart on this page), before filing the petition. An expungement petition is detailed and requires many documents in order to be fully considered by a judge. A single mistake can cost a person their chance to have the record cleared. As such, it is best to hire an experienced attorney to help with the process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Should I Contact?
Not every physical confrontation should result in jail time. If you or a loved one was recently charged with assault and battery, contact Rosenblum Law today. Our firm will work hard to provide you the most effective legal defense to reduce or avoid incarceration and a criminal record. E-mail or call us today at 888-815-3649.