Defending NJ 2C:12-1a. Simple assault.
After you read the following NJ criminal statute (simple assault) you may decide that you need the help of a lawyer, or need a legal interpretation of how this statute applies to your case. The firm of Villani & DeLuca has experienced criminal lawyers with over 20 years of experience, including a former municipal prosecutor. Call the number above for a free 24×7 phone consultation or read more about the assault charge.
Simple Assault Summary
Simple assault is the lesser of the two assault statutes when compared to aggravated assault. Its distinction has to do with the level of injury that is caused, or attempted to be caused by the defendant, and the state of mind of the defendant at the time of the injury or attempted injury. In New Jersey, it is common for an individual to be issued a charge of simple assault when engaging in a bar fight, or purposely getting into a scuffle with a friend that ends in injury. As can be seen within the simple assault statute, the penalties for each of these two examples differ.
What the Prosecutors Need to Prove
Because the charge of simple assault can be committed without actually physically causing bodily injury to another, it can be a tricky charge to understand. In a simple assault cause, the State can prove a simple assault occurred in a few different ways.
In its easiest form, a simple assault conviction can be warranted if it can be shown that a victim suffered a bodily injury and it was the defendant's purposeful, knowing or reckless conduct that caused it. “Bodily injury” is defined as physical pain, illness or any impairment of the victim's physical condition. A person acts “purposely” if it is his or her conscious objective to cause bodily injury to another. A person acts “knowingly” if he or she is aware that the conduct is of the nature to cause bodily injury. One is “reckless” if he or she consciously disregards a substantial or unjustifiable risk that injury will result from his or her conduct.
If the prosecutor can prove that the defendant attempted to cause bodily injury to another, given the circumstances and the defendant's actions, a conviction for simple assault may also be entered. In this situation, it is required to prove that the defendant acted purposely with the intent to cause bodily injury to another, even if he or she did not succeed.
Lastly, the State can establish a guilty verdict for simple assault in New Jersey if it can prove that the defendant caused bodily injury to the victim by using a deadly weapon while acting in a negligent manner. Bodily injury has the same definition as described above, and a “deadly weapon” includes any firearm or other weapon, device, instrument, material or substance, which in the manner it is used or is intended to be used is known to be capable of producing death or serious bodily injury. In this type of simple assault, the defendant must have used the weapon “negligently”, which means he or she should have been aware of a substantial risk of causing bodily injury.
Potential Defenses to Simple Assault
The best way to attack a charge of simple assault in New Jersey is to provide evidence that shows that the defendant was not in the state of mind that is required for the charge based on the arrest. Proof of his or her state of mind must be established beyond a reasonable doubt using inferences from the nature of the act and the surrounding circumstances. It is also important to note that, when the actual victim of one's alleged assault was someone other than the person the defendant intended to assault, it is not a defense to a simple assault charge.
What is at Stake in NJ
In New Jersey, a simple assault charge is a disorderly persons offense. A disorderly persons offense in New Jersey is the equivalent of a misdemeanor offense in other states. A conviction for a disorderly persons offense, such as simple assault, comes with a $1,000 fine and the potential of up to six months in jail. An exception occurs under the simple assault statutes if a fight occurs in a consensual way. In that situation, the fighters could each be charged with simple assault, but the maximum they could receive is up to a $500 fine for a petty disorderly persons charge.
NJ Statute: 2C:12-1a. Simple assault.
a. Simple assault. A person is guilty of assault if he:
(1) Attempts to cause or purposely, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another; or
(2) Negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon; or
(3) Attempts by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
Simple assault is a disorderly persons offense unless committed in a fight or scuffle entered into by mutual consent, in which case it is a petty disorderly persons offense.
AKA: NJ Criminal Charge 2C:12-1a, Violation 2C:12-1a, Offense 2C:12-1a
Disclaimer: A copy of this statute has been provided for your information. This wording was current from the NJ website lis.njleg.state.nj.us as of August 2012.