Articles Posted in Aggravated Assault

Under State and Federal law, criminal defendants are not required to offer a defense at any point during their proceedings. They have the privilege to set forth a defense if they choose to do so, though, and if a judge denies them that privilege, it may constitute a violation of the right to a fair trial. The right is not boundless, however, and any evidence a defendant wishes to set forth in his or her defense must be reasonably related to a critical element of the State’s case. A defendant’s right to offer a defense was the subject of a recent New Jersey ruling in which the defendant argued the court erred in failing to introduce evidence suggesting that another party committed the aggravated assault out of which his charges arose. If you are accused of assault or another crime, it is prudent to meet with a New Jersey criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.

The Alleged Assault

It is reported that a physical altercation occurred outside of a New Jersey bar. Video surveillance footage of the incident showed the victim struggling with a man. The man was wearing similar clothing to what the defendant was wearing when he was arrested moments later. The man was then shown taking an object out of the waistband of his pants and striking the victim repeatedly. The man and the victim move off-camera, and the victim is seen seconds later walking into the street to hail a police car.

It is alleged that the victim suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen. The defendant was arrested and charged with multiple crimes, including aggravated assault. During the trial, the court prohibited the defendant from questioning the bar owner regarding his confrontation with the victim on the night of the victim, noting he had not provided notice he would argue he was acting in self-defense and the purpose of the questioning was unclear. The jury convicted the defendant, after which he appealed.

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In criminal matters, the State bears the burden of proving a defendant’s guilt. In contrast, while criminal defendants can set forth evidence if they choose to, they are not required to prove their innocence. Recently, a New Jersey court addressed a defendant’s challenge that a jury instruction regarding flight from the scene impermissibly shifted the burden of proof from the State to the defendant, in a matter in which the defendant was convicted of numerous crimes, including aggravated assault. If you are charged with assault or another serious offense, it is wise to talk to a skillful New Jersey assault defense attorney regarding what evidence the State may try to produce against you at trial.

The Alleged Criminal Acts and Trial

It is reported that an altercation broke out at a bar in New Jersey. The fight spilled into the street, and multiple gunshots were fired. Three people died, and numerous other people suffered injuries. During their investigation, the police identified the defendant as the individual who fired the shots. He was charged with multiple crimes, including kidnapping, first-degree murder, and aggravated assault.

Allegedly, during the trial, evidence was presented that after the incident, the defendant went to Florida, despite previously having no plans to do so. The trial court set forth a jury charge regarding flight as consciousness of guilt, and the defendant did not object to the substance of the charge at trial. He was convicted of many of the charges and sentenced to ninety-nine years in prison. He then appealed, arguing in part that the jury charge improperly shifted the burden of proof from the State onto him.

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In criminal trials, the judge will offer instructions or charges to the jurors, explaining things such as the elements of the charged offenses and providing directives on how the evidence should be evaluated. Thus, if a judge improperly instructs a jury, a defendant may be unjustly convicted, and the improper instruction may provide a basis for an appeal. Recently, in a New Jersey case in which the defendant was charged with aggravated assault, an appellate court discussed the evaluation of jury charges, ultimately determining the trial court properly instructed the jury. If you are charged with a violent crime such as assault, it is critical to retain a knowledgeable New Jersey criminal defense attorney to help you offer a compelling defense.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant physically attacked a man who was working in the salon of his ex-girlfriend. The girlfriend fled the salon, after which the defendant followed her, allowing the victim to escape. When the defendant realized both the victim and his ex-girlfriend were gone, he fled from the scene in a white van. He was subsequently charged with aggravated assault and making terroristic threats. Following a trial, he was found guilty of aggravated assault. He appealed, arguing in part that the trial judge erred in providing the jury with a flight charge.

Evaluating Jury Charges

Under New Jersey law, when a defendant argues a jury charge was erroneous, the charge must be reviewed as a whole. As a person’s freedom is at stake, proper charges are critical to a fair trial, and erroneous charges on material issues are presumed to constitute reversible errors. If a defendant’s attorney fails to object to a charge, though, it is reviewed for plain error.

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In some instances, a defendant can assert an affirmative defense to a criminal charge that will allow the defendant to avoid a conviction. For example, a defendant charged with assault may be able to argue that he or she was acting in self-defense, and therefore had a valid reason for committing the acts out of which the charge arose. Recently, a New Jersey appellate court discussed when a defendant is entitled to a jury instruction on self-defense in a case in which the defendant appealed his assault conviction. If you are accused of committing assault, it is prudent to speak with a knowledgeable New Jersey criminal defense attorney regarding whether you may be able to set forth affirmative defenses to protect your interests.

Facts Regarding the Alleged Assault

Allegedly, the defendant and three other individuals engaged in a physical altercation in March 2016. Specifically, the defendant, a man, went to the home of the first woman, along with the second woman. When they arrived, the second woman asked the first woman if she was involved in a sexual relationship with the defendant, and the two women began to fight, after which a man who was in the first woman’s house became involved in the altercation. The defendant then advised the man not to touch the second woman, punched the man, and struck the man with a hammer.

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon, and weapons charges. Following a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of simple assault and unlawful possession of a weapon and sentenced to two years’ probation. He then appealed on multiple grounds, including the assertion that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury regarding self-defense.

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I never get over individuals who snap and decide to use their car as a weapon.  This is precisely what was reported by the Home News recently about a Plainfield man.  The assailant swerved into his girlfriend’s vehicle on Route 22, sending the car into a spin.  A police officer happened to be in the area and witnessed the incident.  The rogue driver has been charged with Aggravated Assault and Reckless Driving.

N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b), the Aggravated Assault Statute, defines this offense to include attempting to cause serious bodily injury…under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life. A second degree aggravated assault carries up to ten years in jail. There is also a charge of Reckless Driving under N.J.S.A. 39:4-96.  Although this charge is clearly secondary, a conviction can nevertheless give rise to license suspension and up to six months in jail.

The accused in this case is going to have a difficult time defending this matter by virtue of numerous factors including his poor luck; the arresting officer apparently witnessed the entire encounter.  The focus will undoubtedly have to be on the nature of the intended injuries, his state of mind, and other potential avenues to establish that this is a third degree aggravated assault as opposed to a second degree.  Provided the accused has no prior criminal record, a third degree conviction and/or plea should allow him to avoid jail time.

A Lakewood New Jersey man has been charged with knowingly leaving the scene of a fatal accident. The charge stems from a Jackson car accident that resulted in the death of a motorist struck by the defendant. Bail has been set at $150,000.

In accordance with N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5.1, an individual is guilty of a second degree crime where he knowingly leaves the scene of a fatal accident. In order to determine whether such a violation has occurred, one must look to N.J.S.A. 39:4-129 which proscribes the circumstances in which someone is guilty of “leaving the scene”.  In other words, the Title 39 motor vehicle statute defines what is necessary to be found guilty of leaving the scene and, when it results in a fatality, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5.1 essentially sets forth the grading of the offense. This charge is generically referred to as a fatal hit and run.

The offense of knowingly leaving the scene of a fatal accident was a third degree offense up until recently. The law was amended to make this charge a Second Degree. What this means is that anyone charged under N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5.1 is now exposed to 5 to 10 years of prison, whereas  previously jail exposure was limited to 0 to 5 years. The enhancement also created a presumption of incarceration.  What this all means is that jail is highly likely for an individual like the suspect in this case in the event that they are convicted.

I have posted many times on the subject of Assault by Auto in DWI cases. Many individuals may think that these types of charges only effect “problem” individuals. This interpretation could not be more off base and, if you read the StarLedger recently, you would have witnessed this first hand. In this regard, a 55 year old woman from Westfield, who never had any problems with the law previously, struck a pedestrian in the parking lot of Lord & Taylor. It later turned out that this driver was driving while intoxicated.

The suspect in this case was originally issued several motor vehicle summonses. Further investigation apparently substantiated probable cause to issue indictable felony charges. As a result, the motorist was arrested this week on a charge of Aggravated Assault. This offense can be very serious and even includes a grade of Second Degree where injuries are serious enough. I would suspect that this charge is Third Degree based on the facts and the bail amount of $20,000, which is in the range of a Third Degree Aggravated Assault. The defendant is definitely in need of a solid Union County Aggravated Assault Attorney as incarceration could be a possibility depending on the seriousness of the injuries involved, the position of the victim on sentencing, and other factors. My real point is that someone from an affluent community, who is otherwise law abiding, can also be the subject of an Aggravated Assault. The poor judgment in getting into her car drunk could lead to severe penalties for this middle aged suspect.

A person is guilty of Aggravated Assault if he:

  1. Attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another, or causes such injury purposely or knowingly or under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life recklessly causes such injury; or
  2. Attempts to cause or purposely or knowingly causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon; or

The Star Ledger published a brief article Thursday regarding a Simple Assault committed by a Roselle High School student.  The incident offers an interesting example as to how a NJ Simple Assault Charge can be transformed into a much more serious offense of Aggravated Assault when the victim involves a member of a protected class of individuals.  A protected class not only includes police officers and other law enforcement, but other members of the public who the law deems necessary to protect for public policy reasons.  Let me explain this dynamic.

A simple assault is basically any form of unwanted or offensive “touching” of another which causes some element of bodily injury.  This can include momentary pain or discomfort, and need not be lasting or leave residual injury.  A simple assault is transformed under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b) into an aggravated assault when one of the following is the victim: (1) a police officer; (2) fireman or first aid work acting in the course of their duties; (3) teachers, school officials and bus drivers; (4) DYFS workers; and (5) a judge. The escalation of a simple assault to an aggravated assault offense is significant as it triggers an indictable felony charge of the Fourth Degree or even Third Degree.  An individual is exposed to not only a lasting criminal record when this occurs but also up to 18 months in jail for a Fourth Degree conviction, and up to 5 years in jail for a Third Degree.

Our NJ Aggravated Assault Defense Attorneys do their very best to make sure that simple assaults like the one in Roselle never make it to a Superior Court like Union County Superior Court.  If there is no real injury and the defendant does not have a history of this type of behavior, we are typically successful in persuading the prosecutor to remand the case as a NJ Simple Assault charge. We will have to see if the Union County Prosecutor picks up this case as an Aggravated Assault.

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