Assault by Animals In NJ

training of a police dogGuard Dog Owners May be Affected by The Assault by Animal Bill

In December 2013, New Jersey Assembly Bill 1717 was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee. This is a step toward moving the bill to Governor Christie and possibly having it signed into law. The bill, known as “Assault by Animal,” would amend New Jersey’s existing assault laws to make illegal the use of an animal to cause bodily injury to another. This act would constitute assault with a deadly weapon. Animal assaults would be graded similarly to the current assault laws. Simple, aggravated, and victim-specific include the different types of assault outlined under current New Jersey assault statutes.

The proposed text of the bill includes the following:

“A person who purposely uses an animal to intimidate or put another in fear of bodily injury is guilty of assault by animal. Assault by animal is a crime of the fourth degree; provided, however, if the animal causes bodily injury to another, the defendant is guilty of a crime of the third degree.  Assault by animal is a crime of the second degree if the animal causes significant bodily injury to a law enforcement officer acting in performance of his duties while in uniform or exhibiting evidence of his authority.”

Assault by Animal Criminal Penalties

The bill proposes a law that would make purposely using an animal to intimidate another person a fourth degree crime. This would put intimidating with an animal at the same level as intimidating with a firearm. The penalties for this offense are a fine of up to $10,000 and a jail sentence of up to eighteen months.

If the animal in question causes bodily harm to the victim, the defendant faces third degree assault charges. For a third degree conviction, the punishment can be as much as 3 to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

Heightened Charge for Assault by Animal Against an Officer

If the person the animal hurts is a police officer on duty and the incident leading up to the attack relates to the officer’s enforcement of the law and his or her authority, the charges are upgraded to the second degree. For a second degree aggravated assault, the defendant faces 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Second degree crimes carry the presumption of incarceration, which means that if he or she is convicted, the defendant is very likely to serve jail time.

Find Out Your Rights Under this Proposed Law

As with all other types of assault, if Bill 1717 becomes part of the law, assault by animal cases will be subject to scrutiny over the defendant’s intention to harm his or her victim. Because the weapon used in these cases is a conscious, and sometimes uncontrollable, being, evidence of intent to harm could be murkier than in cases where a firearm or other inanimate weapon was used. Recognizing the use of animals as weapons is a new step for New Jersey, and it would affect guard dog owners if it becomes part of the law.

If you have been accused of using an animal as an assault weapon or want to know more about Assault by Animals In NJ, the specifics of the bill and how, if it becomes law, it will affect you and your guard dog or other animal, call Villani & DeLuca at (732) 965-3350 today. Villani & DeLuca’s team of lawyers has over forty years of combined experience serving Ocean County and Monmouth County residents.