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How concerned should I be about simple assault charges?

While the venues and the participants vary, the majority of minor physical altercations invariably follow a similar pattern. Specifically, there is some manner of verbal argument that rapidly deteriorates and culminates in violence from pushes and slaps to kicks and punches. The two parties then stop fighting either of their own volition or, perhaps more commonly, because their fight is broken up by others.

As much as the parties might want to declare the matter over, dismissing it as misunderstanding, it might not be that simple -- especially if one of the parties suffered some type of injuries and was clearly acting in self-defense.

Indeed, there's a good possibility that the aggressor in this situation could end up facing simple assault charges, a criminal offense that can prove to be more serious than implied by its name.

How does New Jersey define simple assault?

State law declares that simple assault can occur in one of three ways:

  1. A person attempts to cause, or recklessly, knowingly or purposely causes bodily injury to another
  2. A person negligently causes bodily injury to another using a deadly weapon
  3. A person attempts via physical menace to put another in fear of imminent and serious bodily injury

What's the difference between recklessly, knowingly, purposely and negligently?

While it's understandable how a person could be confused by these seemingly similar terms, they are actually quite different and easy to distinguish:

  • Recklessly: The person is aware that their actions could result in bodily injury, but are unconcerned by this possibility
  • Knowingly: The person is highly aware that their actions could result in bodily injury, but proceeds nonetheless
  • Purposely: The person wants their actions to result in bodily injury
  • Negligently: The person should be aware that their actions could result in bodily injury, but fails to comprehend this before acting

We'll continue this discussion in a future post, exploring more about what constitutes bodily injury and the penalties for simple assault.

In the meantime, if you've been charged with this offense or any other manner of violent crime, consider consulting with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible.

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