How Are Assault and Aggravated Assault Charges Different?
In the past seven years, the number of aggravated assault charges has risen sharply. This type of crime gets confused with standard assault, but it actually has more severe penalties. Learning the difference can help you make wise legal decisions.
Which Types of Assault Are Felonies?
The main difference between assault and aggravated assault in New Jersey is their classification. The most standard type of assault, called “simple assault,” is only a misdemeanor. Also called a Disorderly Persons Offense, this charge is a lighter charge. Trials for simple assault are held in municipal court.
Meanwhile, aggravated assault is a more serious version of assault. It is far less common than simple assault, but when it occurs, it is an indictable offense instead of a misdemeanor. Indictable offenses are essentially the New Jersey version of a felony. They require a lengthier trial in a state courtroom, and being convicted of an indictable offense comes with extra consequences, such as the offense staying on your criminal record for 10 years.
What Upgrades Assault to Aggravated Assault?
Any time you inflict unwanted physical contact or threaten physical harm to another person, you commit simple assault. However, there are several things you can do that fulfill the aggravated assault definition. First of all, the offense is automatically upgraded if you committed an assault on a member of a protected class, such as a law enforcement officer, fireman, EMS responder, teacher or health care worker.
You can also get aggravated assault charges if you used a weapon during your assault, including guns, knives, or fire. Committing another crime during assault, such as burglary, can result in aggravated assault charges. The court will also look at the severity of the injuries caused by an assault. Major injuries that require a lengthy recovery are more likely to result in aggravated assault charges.
Finally, you may face aggravated assault charges depending on the severity of your crime. If you caused severe bodily injury or attempted to cause a potentially fatal injury, you may face aggravated assault charges. This means that doing something like strangling someone for a second or shoving them off a hill can be aggravated assault since it has the chance of being fatal.
Aggravated Assault Has Much Worse Penalties Than Basic Assault
Simple assault already comes with severe penalties, including up to a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. However, aggravated assault penalties are even worse. Consequences will depend on whether you are charged with second, third, or fourth degree aggravated assault. Depending on the charges, you can face anywhere from 18 months to 10 years in prison. You can also be fined anywhere between $10,000 and $150,000.
Defense Strategies May Vary Depending on Your Assault Type
For basic assault charges, a defense strategy often focuses on intent. You can only be convicted if you intended to cause harm, so your Morristown criminal defense lawyer might try to argue that the whole assault was an accident. It is also possible to show the assault was justified. If you were protecting yourself, you may be innocent of simple assault.
Since aggravated assault penalties are so severe, many legal defenses focus on trying to downgrade the criminal charges. For example, they might argue that you did not know there was a hill when you pushed a person, so you were not intentionally trying to cause an extremely dangerous fall. Another argument could be stating that you were not aware a weapon was nearby and you did not include the weapon in your assault. These types of defenses help to potentially lessen charges.
If you or a loved one is facing any type of assault charge, you need help from a Morristown criminal defense lawyer. Gregg Wisotsky and his team can assist you with gathering evidence to defend yourself, handling court documents, making your case in court, and more. We have offices throughout New Jersey, and we offer free consultations. To schedule an appointment, fill out our contact form, or give us a call at 973-898-0161.