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Aggravated Assault Charges NJSA 2C:12-1B

As a defense attorney and prosecutor I have handled hundreds of assault cases. Aggravated assault comprises a wide range of offenses that can be brought in several contexts. These include domestic violence, street fights, and car accidents involving intoxication or recklessness. Aggravated assault is considered a serious crime in New Jersey. Providing those that are found guilty with harsh consequences that can follow them for the rest of their life. 

What makes this crime even more challenging and confusing is that numerous everyday situations can result in an aggravated assault charge. And in some cases, you may not even think you are doing anything wrong- protecting yourself, your loved ones, or even your property. Whatever the situation is, if you have been charged with aggravated assault, it is essential to hire a skilled New Jersey criminal defense attorney that can help you understand your rights and defend them in the best way possible. 

Aggravated Assault- What is it?

According to the New Jersey Aggravated Assault Statute (NJSA 2C:12), aggravated assault elements include the following:

  • The attempt to cause serious bodily injury with extreme indifference.
  • Recklessly causing bodily injury to another individual with a deadly weapon; or.
  • Recklessly displaying extreme indifference to another human life.

These elements may seem fairly straightforward. However, aggravated assault is actually a quite complicated and confusing crime. To help break it down further, the following are specific scenarios in which an individual can be found guilty of aggravated assault.

  • When an individual knowingly points a firearm in the direction of another individual, or a police officer, whether or not the accused knew it was loaded. 
  • Committing a simple assault against any of the following individuals during their scope of employment: 
    • Police Officer
    • EMT/EMS Responder
    • Firefighter
    • Teacher, School Administrator, School Board Member, School Bus Driver, or Any Other School Employee
    • Judiciary Members (Judges and Justices)
    • Train Conductor, Bus Driver, or Other Employee of a Rail Passenger Service
    • Division of Youth and Family Services Employee
    • Jail Employees including a Department of Corrections Officer 
    • Cable Company Employee or Utility employee
    • Health Care Workers
    • Direct Care Worker at a Psychiatric Facility
  • Hurting an individual and causing them a bodily injury when trying to flee from a police officer or while committing a theft crime. 
  • Purposely starting a fire or an explosion that causes bodily injury to emergency service workers. 
  • When an individual knowingly displays, points, or uses an imitation firearm in the direction of a police officer with the intent to intimidate, threaten, or put the officer in fear of bodily injury, or for any other unlawful purpose.
  • Activate a laser sighting system or device (that would cause a reasonable person to believe that it is a laser sighting system) against a law enforcement officer.

What is Required for the State to Prove these Charges?

For the state to prove the charges of aggravated assault against a defendant, the prosecutor needs to show every aspect of the crime or rather all the elements listed above beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Specifically, they need to show that the defendant intentionally threatened an attack that resulted in the victim’s fear, or that the defendant made an attempt or accomplished a physical attack against another individual. The state also needs to prove the specific facts that turned the assault into an aggravated assault, including:

  • A deadly weapon was used.
  • The defendant concealed their identity.
  • Severe personal injury was inflicted.
  • The defendant committed the assault with the intent of committing some other serious crime
  • The defendant committed harm to a victim that was a member of a protected class ( such as a police officer or a school employee.)

Punishments for Aggravated Assault 

In New Jersey, an individual can face charges for simple assault or aggravated assault. As it implies, aggravated assault is a much more serious crime with significant consequences. The specific conditions of the case, including the severity of the injuries, will determine the degree of punishment an individual is charged with. 

Fourth-Degree Aggravated Assault

When an individual recklessly injures another person with a deadly weapon, points a firearm at another person, or commits a simple assault against an officer or another person defined in the statue (i.e., teacher) but does not cause them bodily harm they can be convicted of a fourth-degree offense.

Fourth-Degree Punishments: Includes up to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. 

Third-Degree Aggravated Assault

An individual can be charged with third-degree aggravated assault when they commit the following actions:

  • Purposely attempt to hurt another with a deadly weapon
  • Trying to cause serious injury to another individual in a manner that shows an indifference to the value of human life. 
  • Pointing a gun (even an imitation gun) at a police offer.
  • Using a laser targeting device on an officer that leads them to believe a weapon is targeting them. 
  • Causing a fire that results in significant injuries to emergency workers.
  • Committing a simple assault against legal enforcement officers or other persons defined in the statue and cause them serious injury. 
  • Intentionally choke their family member or their domestic partner. 

Third-Degree Punishments: Includes three to five years in jail and fines up to $15,000. 

Second- Degree Aggravated Assault

An individual can be charged with second-degree aggravated assault when they commit the following actions: 

  • Another individual is injured while trying to escape the police.
  • They cause a fire that results in serious injuries to emergency workers.
  • They commit any other act that is not specified under the statue that results in serious injury to another person or demonstrates a disregard for human life. 

Second- Degree Punishments: Includes five to ten years in jail and fines up to $150,000. 

Potential Defenses

As you can see, the crime of aggravated assault carries with it grave consequences that can affect the rest of your life. That is why it is crucial to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to start preparing the best defense on your behalf.

  • Self-Defense: According to the New Jersey Self-Defense law, the use of force is justifiable when an individual reasonably believes that force is immediately necessary to protect themselves against another individual’s unlawful force. Therefore, a viable defense option against an aggravated assault charge is self-defense or defense of others. 
  • No Intent: Another possible defense is proving that there was no criminal intent to commit the harm and that the actions of the defendant were accidental. 
  • Mistaken Identity: In some cases, the victim has it wrong, and the defendant they named is not the person that committed the crime. In these situations, the attorney can show that the defendant was not present at the time of the attack and, therefore, not guilty.
  • The Validity of the Evidence: Another good defense is questioning the validity of the state’s evidence. When authorities collect evidence inappropriately, such as not having the proper warrants, their evidence can be excluded, making the state’s case harder to prove. 
  • New Jersey Diversionary Programs: These programs focus on rehabilitation efforts, and an attorney can fight for a third or fourth-degree aggravated assault to be admitted into such a program. One example of a diversionary program is the Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program, which allows defendants to put their case on hold while they complete the program, at which point their charges can be dropped. 

The Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio

Being convicted of an aggravated assault can have significant implications, impacting your relationships, career, and reputation. That is why if you or a family member have been charged with aggravated assault, you need the assistance of an experienced and knowledgeable New Jersey criminal defense attorney that can help you fight for your rights. Do not let this charge ruin your future, contact the law office of Anthony J. Vecchio today

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