On November 18, 2008, the Appellate Division issued its decision in State v. Stull. The case involved the appeal of a Simple Assault conviction under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1. The defendant was a Hamilton police officer who had become involved in a physical altercation at a high school sporting event. Apparently, the defendant’s wife and another women were in an argument and, when he separated the two, the son of the women involved, got involved with the defendant. It culminated in defendant placing the boy in a headlock for a short period. No blows were exchanged.
The officer ended up losing his job and pension as a result of the conviction and appealed. The basis for the appeal was the fact that Simple Assault had not been established as there was no “bodily injury” to the boy as required under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1. The Appellate Division was not persuaded by the argument, concluding that a headlock is enough to cause “bodily injury” insofar as all this term contemplates is some element of pain or physical discomfort.
The lesson to be learned from this decision is told-fold in my mind. First, it illustrates just how serious the repercussions of a simple assault conviction can be in terms of employment. It can limit an individuals ability to get a job and even result in discharge. Second, the decision reinforces the fact that there are rarely “do overs” once there is a bad result in a municipal court case. There typically is only one bite at the apple so an experienced defense attorney is an absolute necessity for anyone viewing a simple assault offense seriously.