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Domestic Violence & Assault in New Jersey

By Anthony Palumbo of The Law Offices of Anthony N. Palumbo – Cranford, NJ

Domestic Violence

The definition of domestic violence is action taken by one partner in a relationship to control the other. Under New Jersey domestic violence laws, when a domestic violence victim dials 911, the alleged offender must be arrested if there is a single sign of physical injury. In such domestic violence cases, a restraining order will usually result frequently coupled with a charge for the physical injury. Domestic violence includes all sorts of actions and can range anywhere from sexual assault, aggravated assault and stalking to name calling or withholding money from a partner. In 2007, New Jersey statistics on domestic violence demonstrated that seventy-six percent of domestic violence victims were women, and most incidents took place between the hours of 8 p.m. and 12 a.m. Domestic violence statistics also show that the most common day for a domestic violence incident is Sunday, and that children are involved in more than thirty percent of all incidents. In New Jersey, in order for domestic violence charges to result, at least one of fourteen specific crimes must be committed. Two of the most common of these crimes are simple assault and aggravated assault.

Domestic Violence & Simple Assault

Under New Jersey law, there are three general ways a person can commit a Simple Assault. A person will be guilty of simple assault if he:

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

Bodily injury, as mentioned within the enumerated above, is defined as physical pain, sickness, or any harm to a person’s physical condition.

The penalties for a domestic violence & simple assault in New Jersey usually involve a restraining order and if convicted of the original charge, whatever penalties naturally flow from that charge. In New Jersey, simple assault is usually a disorderly persons offense which carries penalties of up to six months in prison and one thousand dollars in fines, but certain circumstances surrounding how the offense was committed can lead to reduced or increased penalties.

For example, if the assault took place during a consensual fight, the charge will be downgraded to a petty disorderly persons offense carrying up to thirty days in prison, but, if the assault occurred on a public official like a police officer, the charge will be upgraded to a fourth degree indictable crime which if convicted, carries up to eighteen months in prison. Finally, the charge may be upgraded to a third degree crime if the assault took place on a public official and bodily injury resulted. A third degree crime carries three to five years in prison if convicted.

Domestic Violence & Aggravated Assault

Similar to how a fourth degree simple assault charge can upgraded to a third degree charge when bodily injury results, if the bodily injury is serious enough or other extenuating circumstances exist, the simple assault charge can be upgraded to an aggravated assault charge which is a much more serious criminal offense. A simple assault charge will usually be upgraded to aggravated assault when serious bodily injury occurs. In New Jersey, serious bodily injury is defined as injury that creates a big risk of death or causes serious, permanent disfigurement or harm to a person’s bodily function. An upgrade will also occur when significant bodily injury results from an assault. Significant bodily injury is defined as injury which leads to bodily injury and creates a short-term loss of the function of any bodily part or organ, or of the five senses. As mentioned above, there are also certain extenuating circumstances that will inevitably lead to a charge of aggravated assault. For example, committing a simple assault with a deadly weapon, pointing a firearm at a police officer, starting a fire that causes bodily injury, causing bodily injury while fleeing an officer, or causing bodily injury to any public official are also situations in which a simple assault will be upgraded to aggravated assault.

Penalties for aggravated assault range greatly depending on the particular act. For example, recklessly causing injury with a deadly weapon is a fourth degree crime carrying up to eighteen months in prison, but purposely causing injury with a deadly weapon is a third degree crime carrying up to five years in prison. The important difference in penalties between simple and aggravated assault is that aggravated assault can result in a second degree charge, particularly when a person has manifested extreme indifference to the value of human life or has caused bodily injury while fleeing a scene or eluding an officer. A second degree charge is very serious and carries up to ten years in prison if convicted. Thus, it is important to be aware of this difference.

Domestic Violence & Restraining Order

As mentioned above, when assault and aggravated assault are part of a domestic violence incident, charges are often coupled with the issuance of a restraining order. In New Jersey, a restraining order can be issued on little to no evidence. Additionally, a violation of a restraining order results in independent charges for criminal contempt, and a second violation of a restraining order results in an automatic jail sentence. Criminal contempt in domestic violence cases is a fourth degree crime which carries penalties of up to eighteen months in prison and $25,000 in fines if convicted.

For more detailed information on Domestic Violence in New Jersey, including Simple Assault and Aggravated Assault, please visit my website, Anthony N. Palumbo, New Jersey criminal defense lawyer at www.palumbo-renaud.com. I am a former county and municipal prosecutor, and a current partner at one of the most successful criminal defense firms in New Jersey. If you have questions about a criminal charge in New Jersey and need answers, you may contact me at no obligation at 908-643-6801 for a free consultation anytime.