When most people think of assault, they think of violence against another person. While this is an accurate description, an assault charge can also be an attempt to hurt someone or even committing physical menace. Assault charges fall into two categories: simple assault and aggravated assault. An aggravated assault charge is more serious and comes with harsher penalties. If you or a loved one have been charged with aggravated assault, it’s essential that you hire an attorney to represent you in court. Often, defenses like mutual combat or self-defense can be used in your favor. With an aggravated assault charge, the goal is always to have the charge dropped or at least downgraded to simple assault. 

Simple Assault Charge

New Jersey Statute 2C § 12-1 defines simple assault. The statute describes what constitutes simple assault, including attempts to cause bodily harm to someone else, negligently causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon, and attempts of physical menace that put fear in someone else of bodily injury. Getting a simple assault charge falls under the disorderly person’s offense category. If the assault was considered mutual combat (ex: 2 people both getting into a fight), then the classification is a petty disorderly person’s offense. 

Aggravated Assault Charge

Aggravated assault is a step up from simple assault. New Jersey Statute 2C § 12-1 also defines aggravated assault. The charge covers a wide variety of actions. The first point is attempting to or causing serious bodily injury to another person. The keywords in the description are “manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.” This is much more than a simple, mutually decided-on fight. Aggravated assault also includes attempts to cause or purposely causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon. The law includes recklessly causing bodily injury to another. Pointing a firearm at someone while showing extreme indifference for human life is also aggravated assault.

The law also expands upon simple assault by giving specific situations where a simple assault charge would become an aggravated assault charge. This includes committing an assault upon the following people while they are on duty: 

  • A law enforcement officer (includes causing injury while trying to flee from or elude the police)
  • A paid or volunteer firefighter
  • A person engaged in emergency first aid or medical services
  • A school board member, school administrator, teacher, school bus driver, or other school employee
  • An employee of the Division of Child Protection and Permanency 
  • An operator or employee of a rail passenger service
  • A Department of Corrections employee (ex: county correctional police officer, juvenile detention staff member, etc.)
  • An employee of a utility company
  • A healthcare worker employed by a licensed healthcare facility

When Does a Simple Assault Charge Become an Aggravated Assault Charge?

The law goes on to describe other specific situations in which a simple assault charge could become an aggravated assault charge:

  • Purposefully starting a fire or explosion that injures any emergency services personnel
  • Pointing or displaying a firearm at a law enforcement officer
  • Using a laser sighting system against law enforcement
  • Domestic violence
  • Obstructing the breathing or blood flow of another person

Another method of aggravated assault is called “assault by auto or vessel.” This means a person recklessly operated a motor vehicle, causing bodily injury to another. 

Finally, the law states that committing assault against an institutionalized elderly person or committing assault in the presence of a child under the age of 16 will be considered aggravated assault. 


If you receive a simple assault charge, the penalty is a fine and jail time. The consequences for simple assault are spending up to six months in jail and paying a fine of up to $1,000.

The penalties for aggravated assault are a bit more complicated. Aggravated assault always comes with jail time and fines. However, the duration of the prison sentence and the amount of the fine depend on the specific crime. For example, assault by auto or vessel is generally a fourth-degree crime. However, if the assault happens on school grounds or within 1,000 feet of school property, it becomes a third-degree crime. In this case, it comes with harsher penalties. 

Potential Defenses

  • Self Defense: This is one of the most common defenses in assault court cases. For example, if you were charged with aggravated assault in the domestic violence category, there is a chance that you were defending yourself from domestic violence threats from your partner.
  • Mutual Combat: If you hurt someone but it was during a mutual fight, it can be considered mutual combat. This classification can reduce charges from aggravated assault to simple assault. 
  • Protecting Others: The protecting others defense is often used when children are involved. A lawyer can help you to prove in court that the aggravated assault was performed to protect your children.

How A New Jersey Attorney Can Help With Aggravated Assault Charge Defenses

Navigating aggravated assault charges is challenging. The New Jersey statute includes many different situations in which assault is classified as aggravated versus simple. The key is to find an experienced lawyer who can help fight the aggravated assault charge in court. Leon Matchin has helped many clients with assault charges have them dropped or at least downgraded. This way, fines and jail time decrease.

Leon is familiar with the ins and outs of New Jersey assault law. He can analyze each case in great detail to figure out the best defense path to take in court. Also, if you have a past assault charge and want to know whether it’s eligible for expungement, Leon can help with that as well. For more information about New Jersey attorney Leon Matchin and how he can help with aggravated assault charges, contact him right away. You can reach him by phone at 732-887-2479, or email him at [email protected]