If you’ve watched nearly any crime drama on television or seen a crime drama movie, you’ve probably heard the term “assault and battery” thrown around. In fact, it’s so common that many people mistakenly believe that these two terms are one name to refer to the same crime.
In some states across the country, this is true—assault and battery can be used interchangeably because they refer to the same offense. However, New Jersey is not one of these states, and there’s an important difference between these two terms. This difference is particularly important if you find yourself facing violent crime charges. On this blog, we’ll take a closer look at this important difference and explain how it could impact your case.
New Jersey Assault Laws
The term “assault” is the one that’s most often misunderstood. Generally, when you ask the average person what “assault” means, they think it means that someone beat someone else up or caused them injury in some deliberate fashion. This isn’t exactly accurate. While “assault” could include causing someone physical harm, the laws in New Jersey and most US courts for that matter don’t actually require any physical contact to occur in order for the crime to be charged.
New Jersey laws define assault as any actions or behavior which causes someone to reasonably believe that they’re at risk for physical harm from another person, either by negligence or deliberate action. In New Jersey, the term “simple assault” can refer to any action that’s taken to purposefully or recklessly cause bodily injury to another person, including doing so with a deadly weapon, regardless of whether or not that injury actually occurred. Likewise, simply attempting to make someone fear imminent bodily injury by “physical menace” could also be considered assault.
There is another type of assault covered under New Jersey law as well: aggravated assault. Aggravated assault is a more serious form of assault, which elevates it from the category of “simple.” This can include things like intentionally causing serious bodily injury (something that greatly endangers human life), intentionally or recklessly causing injury with a deadly weapon, committing assault against a protected individual (law enforcement, public employees, healthcare workers, etc.), and causing serious injury in a domestic violence situation.
New Jersey Battery Laws
Here’s the biggest difference between assault and battery under New Jersey law: battery is not a criminal offense in New Jersey. There are still legal references to battery, but they’re considered a “tort,” which is a type of civil lawsuit. This means you can’t be arrested for “assault and battery” in New Jersey, but you can be tried for them in civil court. Assault and battery are torts that refer to causing physical injury to someone else, and the victim of that injury could in return sue you for the damages they sustain (medical bills from the injury, lost wages from missed work, pain and suffering, and much more).
In this context, the tort of “battery” is the act of actually striking someone, causing injury. “Assault” in this context is the act of making someone fear physical injury, such as attempting to hit them, physically intimidating them, and much more. It’s typically much easier to win a battery civil tort case than an assault one.For more information or for a case evaluation if you’ve been accused of assault in New Jersey, contact the Bergen County criminal defense attorneys at Brickfield & Donahue by calling (201) 574-7919!