In legal terms, “assault” and “battery” mean very different things. An assault charge refers to threats of bodily harm but doesn’t require actual contact. Meanwhile, a battery charge refers explicitly to intentional or unwanted physical contact, even if the intent wasn’t to cause harm.
But some states, like New Jersey, don’t distinguish between the two. If you are charged for unwanted contact in the state, you will face an assault charge instead of battery.
The levels of assault charges
New Jersey hands out two types of assault charges – simple and aggravated assault.
Simple assault is the charge levied on a person if they attempt to cause or knowingly/recklessly cause bodily injury to another. Simple assault is also handed out to individuals whose negligence with a deadly weapon causes bodily injury to another. The authorities can also charge someone with simple assault if they attempt through physical menace to put another person in fear of subsequent serious bodily injury.
Aggravated assault is a more severe charge. Those who recklessly causes bodily injury to another person with a deadly weapon face this charge. The charge is also handed out to those who attempt to cause or purposefully cause bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon. Even recklessly aiming a gun at a person – regardless of whether the person with the gun believes the firearm has ammunition – counts as aggravated assault.
The authorities also automatically consider specific aggressive actions as aggravated assault. Using a vehicle to commit assault is an act of aggravated assault. Aggressive actions or threats against a police officer or firefighter are grounds for an aggravated assault charge.
Both simple and aggravated assaults carry severe penalties. They include:
- Simple assault: It’s typically considered a disorderly persons offense, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months of jail time and a maximum fine of $1,000. But if the assault was committed in a fight with mutual consent, it’s a petty persons offense with a 30-day jail sentence.
- Aggravated assault: Depending on the degree charged, the convicted can face prison time from 18 months to 10 years and fines from $10,000 up to $150,000.
Because New Jersey considers battery cases as assault charges, even unintentional physical contact can lead to hefty fines and lengthy prison sentences – on top of criminal charges that stay on record for years. If you are facing assault charges, consider hiring attorneys. Criminal law attorneys can help protect you from the impacts of a conviction and negotiate for lighter penalties.