To ensure the best defense against an aggravated assault charge, there are several aspects of the law you should discuss with your attorney. Educate yourself on the following relevant information before this discussion so you are adequately prepared.
What exactly is an aggravated assault charge?
According to New Jersey state law, you will be found guilty of aggravated assault (in either the second, third or fourth degree) if you do any of certain acts including the following:
- Attempted to cause/actually caused serious bodily injury purposely, knowingly or recklessly under circumstances that manifest you had an extreme difference to the value of human life (second-degree offense).
- Recklessly caused or attempted to cause/knowingly or purposely caused a bodily injury using a deadly weapon (third degree).
- In circumstances that manifest an extreme indifference to the value of human life, you knowingly pointed a firearm at or in the direction of another (fourth-degree crime).
- Caused bodily injury while fleeing/attempting to elude law enforcement (second-degree).
- Caused bodily injury while unlawfully operating a motor vehicle (second-degree).
- Caused bodily injury to emergency services personnel responding to or assisting in putting out a fire that occurred because you knowingly, recklessly or purposely either started a fire or caused an explosion regardless of whether you intended emergency services personnel to become involved (whether second or third-degree offense depends on the severity of injury).
What happens if I am convicted on an aggravated assault charge?
Aggravated assault is classified as a 2nd (most serious) or 3rd degree offense depending on various factors which include:
- Circumstances surrounding your alleged offense
- Location the assault occurred
- For example, did the assault happen on school property?
- Was there bodily injury?
- Was the bodily injury severe?
- Whether you have a criminal history of assault or other serious crimes
- Is the aggravated assault charge combined with charges related to other offenses (such as domestic violence or violation of a restraining order)?
An aggravated assault charge is very serious and carries with it the potential for significant jail time as well as other penalties. They include:
For conviction on a Second-Degree aggravated assault charge (Guilty of inflicting serious bodily injury or if the assault occurred while eluding law enforcement):
- Jail term of 5 to 10 years
- Fine up to $150,000
- Prohibition against ownership or possession of firearm or weapon
- Court-ordered anger management program
- Parole, probation and electronic monitoring by law enforcement
- Victim restitution
- Limited opportunity for early release under the state’s NERA law which requires that you serve at least 85% of your sentence before you are eligible for parole.
For conviction on a Third-Degree aggravated assault charge:
- Imprisonment of 3 to 5 years;
- Fine up to $15,000
In addition to the foregoing, an aggravated assault charge will be filed against you if you are accused of committing simple assault against certain individuals afforded special protection under New Jersey state law including, among others:
- Law enforcement officers;
- Firemen acting in the line of duty regardless of whether they are paid or simply volunteering;
- EMS personnel acting in the line of duty;
- The following individuals employed in or involved with education:
- Members of school boards;
- School administrators;
- Bus drivers;
- Any other employees of public/private school acting in the line of duty;
- Individuals employed by Division of Child Protection and Permanency because of their employment status or while acting in the line of duty;
- Most judges if engaged in performance of judicial duties or because of their status as members of the judiciary;
- Employees of utility service engaged in an attempt to disconnect utility services;
- Employees of the Department of Corrections, county and juvenile corrections officers; employees of juvenile facilities including juvenile detention facilities;
- Probation officers;
- Sheriffs/undersheriffs/sheriff’s officers acting in the line of duty;
- Licensed health care facility employees who provide direct patient care;
- Health care professionals engaged in the line of duty;
- Workers of state or county psychiatric hospital or state developmental centers or memorial homes for veterans while in the line of duty.
There is one other prominent act for which you may face an aggravated assault charge:
- An allegation that you threw a bodily fluid at any of the state or county law enforcement, corrections or juvenile employees listed above.
- If the protected individual suffers bodily injury, this is classified as aggravated assault in the third degree. If not, it shall be deemed a fourth-degree crime.
Clearly, an aggravated assault charge is extremely serious. You will need the best legal representation available to defend you.
Things to consider when choosing a lawyer to represent you against an aggravated assault charge:
- The number of years engaged in criminal defense (yes, aggravated assault is a criminal offense) and the number of clients represented during that time.
- Your livelihood and very liberty depend on whether you are found guilty, acquitted or have the charge(s) dismissed.
- Success rate. Simply put, what is the lawyer’s win/loss record? An attorney good at defending clients facing an aggravated assault charge will gladly share their accomplishments.
Finding the right lawyer is essential to safeguarding your liberty and otherwise protecting your rights. In addition to the possibility of going to jail, you may lose your job, your domestic relationship may suffer, there may even be significant negative effects on your custody and visitation rights if you are divorced. Given all that is potentially at stake, you cannot afford to hope for the best; you need to hire the best.
Tell your lawyer everything.
In order for your lawyer to best represent you, you must share with him or her everything related to the offense, regardless of how insignificant it seems. This includes discussing:
- Whether you resisted arrest.
- Whether you admitted anything regarding the charge to anyone.
- Did you contact or attempt to communicate in any way with the individual upon whose allegations the aggravated assault charge is based?
- Whether you have a history with the alleged victim. Better your lawyer hears it from you than from the prosecutor.
- Whether you have ever been arrested (not just convicted) of a similar offense or of any criminal offense in general.
- Whether you have ever had anger management issues.
One Final Bit of Advice
During a trial, it is crucial for you to pay attention to the testimony of witnesses called to the stand. The outcome may depend on it.
No matter how much your lawyer knows about your case, he/she was not present during the incident. Unless it was captured in its entirety on video, there is no way for your lawyer to know every detail, no matter how much the two of you prepared for the case. As a result, your lawyer may not be able to identify a factual mistake/false statement in the testimony of a witness for the prosecution. If you fail to do so, you miss an opportunity to place doubt into the minds of the members of the jury or the judge. Your future may depend on it.