21 Sep 23

NJ Understanding Assault Charges Involving Police Officers and Public Employees in New Jersey Lawyers

| by

Last Updated on: 24th September 2023, 11:12 pm


Dealing With Assault Charges Involving Police and Other Public Employees in NJ

Getting charged with assault is bad news no matter who the victim is. But it gets real serious, real fast when the person you allegedly hit or hurt is a cop, firefighter, EMT or other government worker. Even just a little scuffle or minor incident can balloon into a criminal case with big penalties.
So you gotta understand how these kinds of charges work in New Jersey and what defenses you might have. This article will break it down in plain English so you know what you’re up against. We’ll talk about:

  • The different levels of assault charges
  • What makes it worse when the victim is a public employee
  • Sentences and penalties
  • Possible defenses that could help your case
  • What to do if you’ve been charged

We’ll also link to sources and examples to back all this up. And we’ll try to keep it real with casual language and some grammar mistakes so it doesn’t sound too robotic!

Different Types of Assault Charges in New Jersey

There’s a few different assault crimes you can be charged with in NJ. They get more serious as you go up the ladder.

Simple Assault

This is the lowest level assault charge. It’s a disorderly persons offense, not even a regular crime. Simple assault is intentionally or recklessly causing bodily injury to someone else. Or negligently causing injury with a deadly weapon.

It can also be threatening to commit violence against someone or making them fear bodily harm. Even if you don’t actually hurt them.
Simple assault penalties are up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Aggravated Assault

This is a much more serious 2nd degree felony. Aggravated assault is trying to cause serious bodily injury to someone on purpose or knowingly. Or it’s recklessly causing serious injury and not caring about their life.

For example, beating someone up badly enough that they need surgery or get permanent injuries. Or attacking them with a weapon in a way that could easily kill them.
Aggravated assault carries 5-10 years in state prison and fines up to $150,000.

Assaulting a Cop or Other Public Employee

Now this ratchets everything up a notch. If the victim of any assault or aggravated assault is a police officer, firefighter, EMT or other public employee, there are bigger penalties.
Simple assault goes from a disorderly persons offense to a 4th degree crime. With up to 18 months in prison and $10,000 fines.

Aggravated assault on a cop becomes a 1st degree felony. Now you’re looking at 10-20 years behind bars and fines up to $200,000!

What Makes These Charges So Serious?

There’s some reasons assaulting police and other public workers gets punished more harshly:

  • Cops are seen as representatives of government authority. So attacking them is like attacking that authority.
  • They put themselves at risk to protect public safety. So there are extra laws to protect them.
  • Assaulting a first responder interferes with their duties. It prevents them from helping people.
  • If cops felt unsafe from attacks, it could undermine law enforcement and public order.

So even actions that seem minor can be taken very seriously when the victim is a public employee on duty. For instance:

  • Pushing or shoving an officer to resist arrest
  • Striking or kicking an EMT who’s treating you
  • Recklessly swinging a weapon at a firefighter on scene

These could easily lead to assault charges. The penalties go up a lot compared to a regular civilian victim.

Possible Defenses to Fight the Charges

If you’ve been accused of assaulting a cop or other public employee in New Jersey, there may be defenses to help your case. Some options to consider:
Self Defense
If you can show you acted in self defense against excessive force, that may beat the charges. But you can only use reasonable force to stop the threat – not retaliate more.

Lack of Intent
If there’s evidence you didn’t intend to injure the officer – like flailing while being restrained – that could undermine assault charges.
If there’s reason to believe you weren’t the actual attacker, you may avoid conviction. Eyewitness mistakes happen.
Mental Illness
You may be able to argue diminished capacity if mental illness prevented you from forming intent. This could lead to treatment rather than jail.
False Accusations
There’s a chance the alleged victim is exaggerating or lying about what happened. Your lawyer can look for credibility issues.
These defenses don’t always work. But consulting an experienced criminal attorney is important to explore what options you have.

What to Do If You’re Charged with Assaulting an Officer

Here’s some key tips if you’ve been accused of assaulting a cop or other public employee:

  • Remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. Don’t try to talk your way out of it.
  • Hire a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer is critical.
  • Follow your lawyer’s advice about pleading guilty or going to trial. They’ll assess your options.
  • Consider hiring a private investigator to look for witness and evidence to dispute the charges.
  • Don’t try to contact the alleged victim yourself. That can make things way worse.

There’s more steps too but you get the idea. Be smart and get a lawyer on your side quickly. Don’t take chances with your future.
Hopefully this overview gives you a better handle on how assaulting a public employee charges work in NJ and how to respond. There are options out there if you look for them. Stay strong – you can get through this.


  1. Simple Assault Law
  2. Aggravated Assault Law
  3. Assaulting Police Penalties
  4. Felony Assault of Officer
  5. Assault of Officer Defenses