What is the Difference Between Simple Assault and Aggravated Assault in New Jersey?

The definition of assault is when a person causes harm to another or attempts to inflict harm on another. Many states, such as New Jersey, have two different types of assault: simple assault and aggravated assault. There is more than one difference between simple assault and aggravated assault in NJ, from what they entail to the assault charges they incur. To familiarize yourself with the two forms of assault, here are the ways in which they differ from one another.

How Are Simple Assault and Aggravated Assault Different?

Simple assault is a misdemeanor or a disorderly offense. Anyone who is found guilty of harming another individual and causing minor injuries such as small cuts or bruises will be charged with committing a simple assault. Additionally, the charge can also be levied against someone who threatens or attempts to harm someone else.

An aggravated assault, on the other hand, is when an individual intentionally causes or knowingly causes long-term or fatal damage or a serious bodily injury to another person using a weapon. A serious bodily injury is classified as an injury that causes permanent disfigurement, a loss or impairment of the functionality of an organ or body part, or creates a substantial risk of death. Many aggravated assaults are considered felony offenses.

How Do Simple and Aggravated Assault Charges Differ?

Comparatively, simple assault charges are considerably less than aggravated assault charges because they are not as severe. With a simple assault charge, the defendant will have to pay a fine of $1,000 maximum and will also receive a permanent charge on their criminal record for the offense. There are some variations with simple assault charges, as individuals who are involved in a fight with agreeing parties can receive a maximum fine of $500 and up to 30 days in jail. In some instances, the defendant in a simple assault case will potentially receive probation.

Due to the varying degrees of severity, aggravated assault cases are split into three different degrees: fourth degree, third degree, and second degree. These degrees differ based on several factors, such as the severity of the victim’s injuries, whether or not a weapon was involved, or if the victim was a protected class like an emergency service employee or a police officer. However, no matter the degree, defendants that go to prison must serve 85% of their prison sentence before they become eligible for parole under the No Early Release Act.

Fourth Degree Aggravated Assault

A fourth-degree aggravated assault happens when the defendant recklessly injures another using a deadly weapon, commits a simple assault against a protected worker, or points a firearm at someone. The defendant will have to pay a maximum fine of $10,000 and face imprisonment for up to 18 months, but if they have no prior criminal history, they may be sentenced to probation instead.

Third Degree Aggravated Assault 

Many crimes can result in a third-degree aggravated assault, such as intentionally trying to harm another person with a weapon, intentionally strangling a family member, attempting to cause a serious bodily injury without regard for human life, pointing a firearm or laser targeting system at a police officer, starting a fire that harmed emergency personnel, or inflicting a serious injury on a protected worker. With third-degree aggravated assault, the defendant must pay a maximum fine of $15,000 and may face a five year prison term. Like with fourth-degree charges, they may alternatively be sentenced to probation.

Second Degree Aggravated Assault

Second-degree aggravated assault is the most severe. Individuals who injure someone while fleeing from the police, cause fires that injure emergency personnel, or commit other felonies not listed by the other two degrees will be charged with a second-degree assault. Defendants can pay a $150,000 minimum fine and face up to ten years in prison even if they are first-time offenders.

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