Understanding the Differences Between Simple and Aggravated Assault in NJ

A man is being led away by two men who are wearing police uniforms. He has his hands behind his back and is possibly being arrested.

You may have heard the terms simple and aggravated assault before—but do you know how they differ? When a person causes or attempts to inflict physical injury on another individual, it is considered an assault. However, whether or not an assault is deemed simple or aggravated largely depends on the circumstances surrounding the incident. To learn the differences between simple assault vs. aggravated assault, here’s an overview of both and how they’re distinguished by New Jersey law.

What Is Simple Assault?

First, let’s review simple assault. This kind of assault is minor and can occur when someone tries to put another in fear of bodily harm or causes an injury out of negligence. Because making the threat of violence is considered simple assault, an individual can be charged without injuring—or even making physical contact—with the alleged victim.

Simple assault is considered a misdemeanor in New Jersey, a crime punishable through fines, imprisonment, and other ways for one year.

What Is Aggravated Assault?

Now that you understand simple assault, what is aggravated assault? When someone attempts to inflict serious harm with indifference to another’s life or causes injury with a deadly weapon while acting recklessly, it is considered an aggravated assault. A deadly weapon is a relatively loose term that refers to anything that can cause death or great bodily harm, such as a knife or gun.

There are many circumstances that can make a crime fall under aggravated assault. These include any attack against a protected class—such as service workers or elderly individuals—or any assaults made with the intent to commit a felony crime like a robbery, among others.

Simple Assault vs. Aggravated Assault Injuries

A major factor that determines simple assault vs. aggravated assault charges is the severity of the injury. The law measures the difference between bodily injury and serious bodily injury—the former resulting in a simple assault and the latter incurring aggravated assault. Bodily injuries consist of trauma, illness, and any harm that impairs an individual physically. Meanwhile, serious bodily injury is defined as anything that creates a substantial risk of death, permanent disfigurement, or impairment and loss of function.

Simple Assault vs. Aggravated Assault: Which Has More Severe Punishments?

As evident, aggravated assault is much more serious compared to simple assault. Therefore, a noticeable difference between the two assaults is the intensity of their respective punishments.

A simple assault conviction will only stay on your record for five years and can result in six months of jail time, along with a $1,000 fine. On the other hand, an aggravated assault conviction will remain on your record for twice as long. However, the charges vary greatly based on whether they were a second, third, or fourth-degree crime.

  • Second Degree: $150,000 fine and five to ten years in jail.
  • Third Degree: $15,000 fine and three to five years in jail.
  • Fourth Degree: $10,000 fine and 18 months in jail.

It is worth noting that if an individual does not have any past criminal history, they can be sentenced to probation for aggravated assault charges. However, if they are sentenced to jail, they must serve 85% of their sentence before being eligible for parole under New Jersey’s No Early Release Act (NERA).

At Shugar Law Office, we offer assistance with assault cases and a variety of professional legal services in the Garden State. Whether you need a DUI lawyer in Freehold, NJ, or a criminal defense attorney in Hackensack, NJ, you can always trust our law firm for exceptional legal aid. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

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