The Star Ledger published a brief article Thursday regarding a Simple Assault committed by a Roselle High School student. The incident offers an interesting example as to how a NJ Simple Assault Charge can be transformed into a much more serious offense of Aggravated Assault when the victim involves a member of a protected class of individuals. A protected class not only includes police officers and other law enforcement, but other members of the public who the law deems necessary to protect for public policy reasons. Let me explain this dynamic.
A simple assault is basically any form of unwanted or offensive “touching” of another which causes some element of bodily injury. This can include momentary pain or discomfort, and need not be lasting or leave residual injury. A simple assault is transformed under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b) into an aggravated assault when one of the following is the victim: (1) a police officer; (2) fireman or first aid work acting in the course of their duties; (3) teachers, school officials and bus drivers; (4) DYFS workers; and (5) a judge. The escalation of a simple assault to an aggravated assault offense is significant as it triggers an indictable felony charge of the Fourth Degree or even Third Degree. An individual is exposed to not only a lasting criminal record when this occurs but also up to 18 months in jail for a Fourth Degree conviction, and up to 5 years in jail for a Third Degree.
Our NJ Aggravated Assault Defense Attorneys do their very best to make sure that simple assaults like the one in Roselle never make it to a Superior Court like Union County Superior Court. If there is no real injury and the defendant does not have a history of this type of behavior, we are typically successful in persuading the prosecutor to remand the case as a NJ Simple Assault charge. We will have to see if the Union County Prosecutor picks up this case as an Aggravated Assault.