Defending a Charge of Assault



In New Jersey, assault cases are considered disorderly persons offenses and therefore are held in Municipal Court. Simple assault is considered a lesser serious offense than aggravated assault, which is venued in the Superior Court. However, just because your charge is held in Municipal Court does NOT mean it has no serious implications.

A common misconception most people have about Municipal Court is that the charge is no big deal. Many people believe they do not need to hire an experienced Municipal Court attorney. They are wrong and learn a hard lesson. Along with possible jail time and hefty fines, a conviction for assault will give you a permanent criminal record. This can impact many future aspects of your life, including getting a job, getting into school, the military, and law enforcement and getting a professional license. Don’t leave yourself at risk.

Call us at Hanlon Niemann today and let us work to protect your rights and your pocketbook.


What Constitutes an Assault Charge in New Jersey?

New Jersey Law says a person is guilty of assault if they commit one of three actions:

  • Purposely, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another, or attempting to do such;
  • Negligently causing bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon;
  • Attempting by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.

Did you notice that the law provides that purposely causing bodily injury to someone or attempting to cause bodily injury is considered assault? There is one big exception to this, however, and that is if the assault involves a fight entered into with mutual consent, the matter is to be considered a petty disorderly persons offense.

One interesting thing to note about an assault case is that the offense includes “attempts”. This means that one can be charged for simply attempting to cause bodily harm to someone, or attempting by physical menace to put someone in fear of being serious hurt, even if they are not successful. One must also notice the distinctions between attempting to cause “bodily injury” and attempting to put another in fear of “imminent serious bodily injury”. Imminent serious bodily injury is obviously more significant, as it refers to a risk of death or other significant bodily harm, something more than just a punch in the arm for example. This distinction is made solely to ensure that threats of significant bodily injury to someone are considered simple assault, even if no actual “attempt” is made to physically harm the person. Pointing a gun at someone is therefore considered simple assault, even if you aren’t attempting to kill the person or even pull the trigger. This is because you are attempting to place a person in fear of significant bodily injury, or death.

One must also remember that a conviction for assault can be made by “reckless” or “negligent” actions. Reckless actions refer to those actions where an individual consciously disregards a known or reasonably foreseeable risk of bodily injury. What is and isn’t considered reckless is subjective, meaning it is decided on a case-by-case basis. “Negligent” actions that constitute “simple assault” on the other hand, must involve a deadly weapon, such as a gun, knife or any other object that can cause death or serious bodily injury. Under these circumstances, the individual inflicts bodily harm to the victim under circumstances where the risk is significant and unjustified. The charge and resulting outcome is determined on a subjective basis, making it imperative that you have an experienced Municipal Court Attorney by your side familiar with the elements that constitute simple assault under the laws of New Jersey.

What is the Difference Between a Simple Assault and Aggravated Assault?

The basic difference between the two is that simple assault is considered a disorderly persons offense, while an aggravated assault is considered an indictable crime. Disorderly person’s offenses, including simple assault, are tried in Municipal Court and if convicted risk a less harsh fine and sentence. Aggravated assault on the other hand is tried in the Superior Court Criminal Division and carries a much more significant penalty. Aggravated assault involves more serious actions and injuries caused by the accused person.

Aggravated Assault is Defined as an Action Where an Individual

  • Attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another, or cause injury to another purposely or knowingly under circumstances which evidence on extreme indifference to the safety of human life or recklessly causes injury to another; or
  • Attempts to cause or with a purpose to cause or with knowledge causes bodily injury to another person with a deadly weapon; or
  • Recklessly causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon; or
  • Knowingly under circumstances demonstrating extreme indifference to the value of human life points a firearm at or in the direction of another, whether or not the actor believes it to be loaded; or
  • Commits a simple assault upon a law enforcement officer, fireman, or certain other government employees…

The assault statutes also include other situations, but the above constitute the basics of the law. One other important note about aggravated assault is that it includes all simple assaults upon cops and certain other government officials. This means that a simple assault automatically becomes an indictable offense if the assault occurs on a government employee listed in the statute.

It is important to know the difference between simple assault and aggravated assault. Many times, prosecutors will charge you for aggravated assault when the facts only warrant a simple assault charge. An inexperienced New Jersey assault law attorney may not pick up on this. It is important to have an attorney who knows the law and is able to apply the law on assault to the specific facts of your case. At Hanlon Niemann & Wright, an experienced attorney can defend you and often help you negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor and if warranted, plead guilty to a lesser serious charge. Don’t go it alone call Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. today toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com. He’s here to protect you.

What Kind of Sentence Can an Individual Face if Convicted of Simple Assault?

As previously mentioned, simple assault is a disorderly person’s offense tried in Municipal Court. Simple assaults constitute a disorderly person’s offense and sentences include jail for up to six months, probation, a fine of up to $1,000, and additional surcharges. If the charge is for an aggravated assault, the length of sentence and fine amounts are subject to a significant increase.


Fredrick P. Niemann Esq.

Simple and Aggravated Assault cases are one of the many challenging areas of Municipal Court. Not only are there different degrees of assault, but different penalties, fines and prison terms applied for each. Please call Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq., a knowledgeable NJ Municipal Court Simple Assault Attorney today. He can be reached toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or by email at fniemann@hnalwfirm.com. He looks forward to speaking with you.



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