Earlier this month, we discussed how the law here in New Jersey takes a dim view of even minor physical altercations, such that those who find themselves identified as an aggressor could be charged with simple assault, a criminal offense that's perhaps more serious than its name implies.
To recap, simple assault is defined as a person 1) attempting to cause, or recklessly, knowingly or purposely causing bodily injury to another, 2) negligently causing bodily injury to another using a deadly weapon, or 3) attempting via physical menace to put another in fear of imminent and serious bodily injury.
What's the difference between bodily injury and serious bodily injury?
A victim is said to suffer bodily injury if they endure any manner of "physical pain, illness or any impairment of physical condition." By way of illustration, consider a black eye, chipped tooth or laceration.
A victim is said to suffer a serious bodily injury when there is a substantial risk of permanent disfigurement, loss or impairment of an organ, or death. By way of illustration, consider a victim suffering kidney damage or losing a finger.
What constitutes a deadly weapon?
To reiterate, simple assault charges can be brought for negligently causing bodily injury to another using a deadly weapon.
While a deadly weapon clearly includes things like knives, guns and clubs, it also encompasses any "device, instrument, material or substance" that can be wielded in a manner resulting in serious bodily injury or death.
By way of illustration, consider someone striking another with a brick, bottle or shovel.
What are the penalties for simple assault?
Simple assault is typically charged as a disorderly persons offense, such that the defendant can be fined and/or required to pay restitution to the victim.
However, if the underlying injury was the result of a fight/scuffle entered into via mutual consent, the defendant will be charged with a petty disorderly persons offense.
While it can be easy to dismiss simple assault charges, consider that they can go on a permanent criminal record, affecting everything from employment prospects to educational opportunities. As such, consider consulting with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible if you've been charged with this offense or any other manner of violent crime.