Perhaps a night out turned into an altercation. Someone called the police, and you ended up in the back of a police car. The officer told you that he or she arrested you for assault and battery. What does that really mean under New Jersey law?
Understanding the charges you face is a big part of formulating your defense. Even a basic understanding of the charges could give you some idea of where to go from here.
What is an assault, and what is a battery?
Did you know these are actually two different things? Many people assume the charge as one and often say the words together. Technically, this may be true, but only if each of them actually occurred at the same time. An assault is a threat of imminent violence against another person.
A battery involves actual, offensive contact with the other person that causes intentional or unlawfully reckless harm. You do not have to have a weapon, let alone a deadly one. You don't necessarily have to make contact with a person's body to face charges, since the law considers a person's clothing or glasses as an extension of the person.
So, what does New Jersey say on the subject?
New Jersey does not have a separate charge for battery. Instead, if you allegedly commit a battery, you would face assault charges. However, if police accuse you of committing an assault, it does not have to include a battery for you to face charges. The circumstances surrounding the assault tend to dictate whether you face a charge of simple assault, which is considered a disorderly person's charge, or an aggravated assault.
What constitutes a simple assault?
You could face charges for simple assault under the following circumstances:
- You negligently harmed another person with a deadly weapon.
- You attempted to make someone fear imminent bodily harm by menacing or threatening that person.
- You attempted to cause someone bodily injury.
- You recklessly or knowingly caused someone bodily harm.
You could face a petty disorderly person charge if both parties were involved in the altercation. For example, a bar fight could fit this definition.
What constitutes an aggravated assault?
While you could face misdemeanor charges for simple assault, you could face felony charges for an aggravated assault. If police accuse you of the following, you could face this more serious offense:
- You recklessly pointed a gun at someone and put that person in fear for his or her life. It doesn't matter whether there were any bullets in it.
- You attempted to cause serious bodily injury to someone.
- You intentionally caused serious bodily harm to another person.
- You caused someone serious bodily injury during a negligent or reckless situation.
- You used a deadly weapon to recklessly cause bodily harm to another person. The deadly weapon could range from a knife to your car and everything in between.
- You attempted to cause bodily injury to someone with a deadly weapon.
- You intentionally caused bodily harm to someone with a deadly weapon.
Regardless of which assault charge you face, you need to take the situation seriously. A conviction for assault on your record could have lasting ramifications to your life, not just your freedom.