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November 20, 2020


Simple Assault charges are fairly common in the municipal court system throughout New Jersey. The offense is definitely not confined to thugs and gang members.  Everyday people get charged with simple assault all the time when arguments escalate into physical contact, or as a result of intoxicated behavior, domestic disputes or any number of other causes. If you have been charged with a simple assault offense anywhere in NJ, it is critical that you retain the best attorney to defend you.  Simple assault charges carry penalties and collateral consequences that can be severe.

New Jersey Simple Assault Statute

The New Jersey statute that addresses the offense of simple assault is provided for in N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1. This violation is unique in a sense because it is triggered as the result of not only purposeful or knowing conduct, but also reckless or even negligent acts. A person commits a disorderly persons offense for simple assault if he or she:

  1. Attempts to cause or purposely, knowingly or recklessly inflicts bodily injury to another; or
  2. Negligently inflicts bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon; or
  3. Attempts by physical menace to have another person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.

The required evidence to secure a conviction for simple assault depends on which of these three categories would apply and whether purposeful, knowing, reckless or negligent conduct must be shown. Below, we explain these and other aspects of the New Jersey simple assault statute.

  1. Attempts: The simple assault offense is somewhat unique since it can arise under a number of scenarios in terms of purpose or intent; that is, the charge is not limited to scenarios where an individual had the purpose and intent to assault someone. In this regard, an individual may be found guilty under the simple assault statute if he acted either purposefully, knowingly, recklessly or negligently. The statute also imposes criminal liability for “attempted” acts which is somewhat unusual under the New Jersey Criminal Code. The offense of attempted simple assault can be found in N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(a) and can arise when an individual attempts to inflict bodily injury to another or where an individual puts another individual in fear of imminent serious bodily injury by engaging in menacing conduct.
  2. The terms “Bodily injury” and “serious bodily injury”: The simple assault statute makes repeated reference to the term “bodily injury.” Bodily injury is defined pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:11-1a as physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition. In other words, bodily injury contemplates physical contact with another person’s body, whether it be actual or attempted. It is also worthy of note that New Jersey decisions such as N.B. v. T.B., 297 N.J.Super. 35, 43 (App.Div. 1997) have repeatedly reinforced the fact that the threshold for bodily injury is extremely low, even a stinging feeling from a slap is sufficient.

III. Recklessly Causing a Simple Assault: Recklessly causing simple assault speaks of instances where an accused consciously disregards a known, substantial and unjustifiable risk that bodily injury shall be caused. The conduct has to involve a gross deviation from what would be reasonable under the circumstances in question. What is and is not reasonable under any given set of circumstances can become subjective.  A knowledgeable defense lawyer, such as those at our office, can be invaluable when this issue comes up.

  1. Negligently Causing a Simple Assault: A simple assault can only arise negligently in cases which a deadly weapon is involved. The language in section N.J.S.A. 2C:11-1c defines deadly weapon as “any firearm or weapon, device, instrument, material or substance, whether animate or inanimate, 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 or which in the manner it is fashioned would lead a victim reasonably to believe it to be capable of producing death or serious bodily injury.” A negligent assault is charged under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1 where an individual causes bodily injury with a deadly weapon under circumstances involving a knowing, substantial and unjustifiable risk of injury. The behavior must, again, violate the reasonableness standard discussed above. A seasoned defense lawyer at your side is an imperative in a situation where someone is charged with this offense, because it almost always is accompanied by a charge of possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose – another very serious offense.

Degrees of a Simple Assault Charge

Simple assault is customarily a disorderly persons offense. Violations of this nature that arise as the result of a consensual fight or scuffle, then simple assault is a petty disorderly persons offense. If the victim of a simple assault is a police officer or some other public employee, for example, a teacher or coach, then the conduct can get you an aggravated assault charge, an indictable felony. Aggravated assault arising in this context is a third-degree offense if it results in bodily injury and a fourth-degree crime if it does not. The criminal defense attorneys at our firm are often successful in winning a downgrade of a simple assault charge and/or dismissal altogether.

Consequences for Simple Assault in New Jersey

Simple assault in the third-degree carries up to five (5) years in jail. If the simple assault is a fourth-degree crime, then the maximum jail term is 18 months. In the vast majority of scenarios, a simple assault will be charged as a disorderly persons offense, because the victim is not a police officer, teacher or other individual falling under a protected class enhancing the offense to aggravated assault. The consequences for a disorderly persons conviction of simple assault are jail time from 0 to six (6) months (30 days maximum for consensual fighting), probation as ordered by the Court, and a fine anwhere between $0 and $1,000.

Other fees for this charge include:

  • $50 VCCB Assessment
  • $75 Safe Neighborhood Assessment
  • $33 in Court Costs
  • Domestic Violence Surcharge (where applicable) $100.


Simple Assault Domestic Violence Charges in New Jersey

When the accused commits a simple assault on a boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife or another individual falling under the protection of the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, the offense is treated as domestic violence. In such cases, a criminal charge for simple assault can be accompanied by a restraining order. Two separate court proceedings, one for prosecution of the assault offense and another in family court to decide whether the temporary restraining order should become final, will ensue.

Conditional Dismissal of a Simple Assault Offense in New Jersey

The diversionary program in New Jersey for non-drug disorderly persons offenses is called Conditional Dismissal. A person can avoid a criminal conviction and all of the penalties for simple assault if they are admitted into and successfully complete a period of Conditional Dismissal probation.  This is typically one (1) year. Eligibility is limited to persons who have never obtained Pretrial Intervention (“PTI”), Conditional Discharge or Conditional Dismissal before.  You are allowed only one diversion under NJ Law.

Contact Our Highly Skilled Simple Assault Defense Attorney At Our New Jersey Law Firm

There are clearly numerous pitfalls to simple assault charges which make it a must to obtain representation from a skilled defense attorney. Here at Spodek Law Group, our team includes attorneys who are former prosecutors that have decades of collective experience representing clients charged with simple assault. We definitely possess the know-how to secure an acquittal of this offense. To talk about your case with a lawyer who is knowledgeable in this area and will answer all your questions, call us as soon as you know you are facing a simple assault charge.



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