TV, films, and pop culture often cause lots of confusion with assault and other related crimes. This uncertainty and misinformation also results from the assault statute’s complicated language. If you need a simple explanation of simple assault, you’ve come to the right place. So, what is simple assault?
This overview can give you important information about simple assault, along with legal support from your New Jersey criminal defense lawyer.
Definition of Simple Assault in New Jersey
There are many different charges that may come into play when you’re in a fight with another person, whether it is physical or not. You could be arrested for simple assault if:
- You attempted to hurt someone, but didn’t touch him or her; or,
- You put another person in fear because you created a threat of physical, harmful contact.
The New Jersey assault statute is crucial to know because it describes exactly what a prosecutor must prove to convict you. The elements of simple assault are:
- Intent to threaten or cause fear of harm to another person, such as through words or gestures;
- Reasonable thought from the victim who thought that physical harm would result from your actions; and,
- Actual harm to the victim, which may be physical in nature but is not required to cause bodily harm. In some cases, it may be enough that the victim felt threatened based on the circumstances, your words, and your gestures.
Distinctions Between Simple Assault and Other Crimes
Most confusion about assault comes from the fact that many people associate it with the term “assault and battery.”
There are two separate crimes in this scenario. Battery is unlawful, non-consensual contact that’s offensive or harmful to the victim. Assault may or may not involve physical contact, so it’s often linked to battery. Still, you can be arrested for assault without making any contact if your actions create a risk of harm.
How is simple assault different from aggravated assault?. In New Jersey, the offense crosses over to aggravated assault if:
- You try to harm someone under circumstances implying a disregard for the value of human life;
- You cause or attempt to cause harm with a deadly weapon;
- Your recklessness with a deadly weapon causes harm to another person; or,
- You commit a crime that qualifies as simple assault, but your actions are directed at someone designated by statute. Examples include law enforcement, fire fighters, or school employees.
Penalties for a Simple Assault Conviction
In most cases, simple assault is a disorderly persons crime in New Jersey.
As a misdemeanor, you face up to six months’ imprisonment and a $1,000 fine if you’re convicted. Under certain circumstances, you could be arrested for simple assault if you’re in a situation with “mutual combatants”, such as a bar fight. You could be sentenced to 30 days in jail for a conviction on this petty person’s offense.
An Attorney Can Help with Potential Defenses to Simple Assault Charges
There are strategies to fight charges in any criminal case, so it’s important to remember that an arrest is NOT a conviction. A prosecutor must prove that you’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to get a conviction. With the help of a criminal defense lawyer, you can attack the prosecution’s case and create that shred of doubt.
There are also other defenses to fight simple assault charges in New Jersey:
- You were acting in self-defense or to defend others. If the other person was trying to harm you, or hurt another person, the evidence may be enough to defeat the charges.
- You could present proof that you were acting to protect your own property.
- Because prosecutors must prove intent, you could beat simple assault charges if there’s proof that you never meant to cause assault.
Remember that these defenses cannot prevent conviction for simple assault unless they’re presented to the court. Police only need probable cause to arrest you, but prosecutors need proof beyond a reasonable doubt. When your case goes to trial, the only way to make sure the judge hears your defenses is to raise them by motion. If you don’t have a legal background, you may not know how to file:
- A motion to ban evidence that was unlawfully obtained by a violation of your constitutional right against unlawful search and seizure;
- A motion to compel information that the prosecutor is holding against your interests; or,
- Motions to dismiss the charges for insufficient evidence.
A skilled attorney has experience in motion practice, which could lead to a dismissal of the charges or an acquittal. A lawyer can also work on a plea bargain, which could benefit first-time offenders.
Consult with a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Hopefully this summary gives you enough information to understand what simple assault is.
However, you also need extensive experience and knowledge when it comes to legal representation in court.
Our team can help with your case, so please contact the Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio, LLC to speak with one of our lawyers. We can schedule a consultation to meet with you at any of our five offices in New Jersey.