Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: May 21, 2020

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Under the U.S. common law system, the crime of assault is committed when a person intentionally puts another in fear of receiving serious bodily injury or offensive contact. When the victim is actually injured or contacted in an offensive manner, the offender is guilty of battery. Today, while some states continue to separate the two crimes of assault and battery, many have combined both under one single assault statute.

Subcategories of Assault 

New Jersey law, like that of many other states, subdivides the crime of assault into two different categories: simple and aggravated assault. A person is guilty of simple assault if he attempts to cause or knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another. S/he is also guilty of simple assault if s/he puts that person into fear of receiving serious bodily injury. A person is guilty of aggravated assault if s/he attempts to cause – or knowingly or recklessly causes – serious bodily injury to another under circumstances demonstrating extreme indifference to the value of human life. Furthermore, a simple assault is upgraded to an aggravated assault if committed against a member of a protected class of individuals, such as police officers, firefighters, teachers and judges acting in the line of duty or scope of employment. In New Jersey, sexual assault is categorized as aggravated assault.

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Definition of Bodily Injury

Under many state laws, bodily injury is defined as impairment, physical injury or substantial pain. For example, one punch from an offender to a victim could cause the bodily injury necessary to charge simple assault. Multiple hard punches from that offender could cause the serious bodily injury necessary to charge aggravated assault. “Serious bodily injury” is defined as that which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement,or the protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

Under many state laws, aggravated assault is most often graded as a felony while simple assault is graded as a misdemeanor.  For questions about assault or a local assault statute, consult an experienced criminal attorney.