If you are ever involved in a physical confrontation,
the direction your life takes depends on the extent of the victim's injuries and who that victim is.
Simple or Aggravated Assault?
There are many variables to consider in determining whether a Defendant should be charged with Simple Assault or Aggravated Assault. These variables make all the difference in the world. Depending on who the victim is and depending on the bodily injury or injuries sustained by the victim, the defendant is facing two extremely different charges with two entirely different outcomes. A person (with a clean record) who is charged with Simple Assault, and is found guilty or pleads guilty, will most likely leave court with a criminal record and be ordered to pay fines/penalties. He or she will enjoy their freedom.
At the other extreme, if a Defendant is charged with Aggravated Assault, the consequences for that defendant can be devastating. He or she may not be leaving court after a guilty plea or a guilty conviction following trial. Instead, that Defendant will be on his or her way to one of New Jersey’s finest prisons for (potentially) many years.
The section of the law outlining Simple Assault and Aggravated Assault can be found below. Lay people (non-lawyers) are not used to, and do not enjoy, reading legal statutes. laws are written in a dry, boring, and formulaic manner. They rarely, if ever, captivate their reader’s attention. Your time is better spent at the gym or doing whatever makes you happy.
So, if you feel like reading the law, be my guest and scroll down to the statute (at the bottom) and knock yourself out. For those that have better things to do than read the law, let me simplify a few concepts related to these two types of assaults. Neither form of Assault is acceptable but understanding the difference may serve you one day.
Basically, the difference between the two types of assault depends on two basic factors:
1) the damage you do to the other person; AND
2) the type of employment OR identity or role of the other person within society.
The first factor is very simple. If you gingerly, yet forcefully, slap someone in the face and cause a mild reddening of the skin, I would argue that you’re facing a simple assault charge.
Now, if you make a fist, wrap it with barbed wire, and punch someone as hard as you can, crushing their eye socket to the point that they will require forty-two reconstructive surgeries, I would argue that you’re facing an Aggravated Assault charge.
Let’s discuss the second factor: the type of employment OR identity or role of the other person within society. Under subsection (b) of the simple assault statute, the same conduct, as applied to a different victim, will be considered Aggravated Assault. Let’s assume that you gingerly, yet forcefully, slap a police officer. What crime have you committed? Simple Assault right? You’re wrong! Look at Section 2C:12-1(b)(5)(a). If you slap a cop, you’re in big trouble. It doesn’t matter that the cop is twice your size. You never hit a cop!
Ok. Now let’s say you’re on a bus and the driver is going to slow. You’re going to be late for work and no matter how many times you beg him to speed up, he appears to drive even slower. You lose your patience and again, gingerly, yet forcefully slap the driver. Simple Assault? Wrong! Look at Section 2C:12-1(b)(5)(g).
Finally, let’s take one more example. You love your primary care physician because he has been your doctor since you were a child. However, his staff is part of the new generation of employees who have no respect for their elders. One of the nurses is especially rude and deliberately makes you wait longer than other patients. One day she belittles you in front of everyone in the waiting room. She asks you why you seem to be gaining so much weight. As always, you lose your patience and once again, you gingerly, yet forcefully, slap the health care worker. Simple Assault? Perhaps not. Look at Section 2C:12-1(b)(5)(i).
Do you understand what I mean about factor 2? It depends on who the victim is. If the victim can be identified (identity) as a bus or train operator, or the victim is an employee of a utility company, or a school board member, or EMT first responder etc., then your gingerly, yet forcefully delivered slap automatically becomes an Aggravated Assault.
Here’s a question. What if a public utility employee is not wearing any type of uniform or is not wearing any type of identifier to put you on notice that he is a utility employee and he enters your property to shut off your water. All you see is an apparent stranger trespassing onto your property with bad intentions. A confrontation develops, and blows are exchanged. Should you be charged with Aggravated Assault? This was a real case that our firm handled. The charges were downgraded and we obtained a good result for our client.
Remember: facts make cases.
About the Author
Mr. Peyrouton is a Criminal Defense Attorney in Bergen County, NJ.