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What to Do if You Are Charged with Assault in New Jersey

March 21, 2024 Uncategorized

Oh No – I’ve Been Charged with Assault in New Jersey, Now What?

So you find yourself facing an assault charge in New Jersey? First off – deep breaths. This situation may seem scary, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself. As your friendly neighborhood lawyer-blogger, let me walk you through what to expect and some smart moves you can make.

First Things First – What Actually Constitutes Assault in This State?

Legally speaking, assault in New Jersey is defined pretty broadly. It covers everything from attempted physical attacks to threats that put someone in fear of immediate harm (even if you don’t actually touch them). The level of charge usually depends on how serious the incident was – a push or slap would likely be simple assault, whereas using a weapon kicks it up to aggravated assault. Some common types of assault charges here include domestic violence, road rage, bar fights, and school fights. Penalties also increase if the victim is a cop, firefighter, elected official, or otherwise protected class. So before deciding how to proceed, get very clear on what exactly you have been accused of – the police report and court documents should provide those specifics.

Step One: Don’t Panic and Do Something Stupid That Makes Matters Worse

As scary as an assault charge sounds, reacting without thinking can really come back to bite you. Definitely don’t do anything violent or threatening – that’s practically begging for extra charges or a restraining order! You also generally want to avoid reaching out to the alleged victim for any reason. Don’t apologize, don’t make excuses, don’t even send a text that could be interpreted as intimidating. It’s safest to avoid all contact until you have a lawyer guiding you. Finally, watch what you say to police if they want to question you. Be cooperative but stick to the basics – your name, address etc. Don’t volunteer additional information without an attorney present.

Step Two: Hire an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

Facing criminal charges without a quality lawyer is just asking for trouble. Rules differ between civil and criminal law, and assault penalties often include hefty fines and years behind bars. When researching defense attorneys, look for these positive indicators:

  • Experience specifically with assault cases – not just any criminal lawyer
  • Strong understanding of New Jersey courts and laws
  • Good track record getting charges reduced or dismissed pre-trial
  • Familiarity with local police and prosecutors

Also ask prospective lawyers about their communication style. You want someone who will listen and clearly explain your options. Hiring an attorney isn’t cheap – prices often start around $2,000 – $3,000 and go way up for trials. But not defending yourself properly could cost your freedom, finances, and criminal record, so view legal counsel as an investment.

Step Three: Recognize Your Top Priorities

In handling an assault case, you typically have three main goals:

  1. Avoid jail time – Getting sentenced to months or years behind bars is usually the worst case scenario. Your freedom is invaluable, so fight hard to stay out of a cell.
  2. Minimize legal penalties – Even if you avoid incarceration, assault convictions carry other stiff penalties like probation, fines, anger management classes, license suspension, and a criminal record. You want to reduce penalties as much as possible.
  3. Save money – Attorney fees, court costs and other expenses really add up. So saving money where possible is also important.

Of course you also want to avoid being falsely convicted if you are actually innocent. But assuming the assault did occur, focus on these priorities first.

Step Four: Listen to Your Lawyer and Build Your Defense

After hiring a lawyer you trust, listen to their guidance very closely! An experienced attorney knows the most effective defense strategies. They also know the local courts and the temperament of prosecutors and judges. Your lawyer should handle tasks like:

  • Reviewing police reports
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Assessing if plea deals could be offered
  • Identifying any legal violations or procedural mistakes by police
  • Requesting evidence like security camera footage
  • Helping prepare your court testimony

Meanwhile you contribute by:

  • Being 100% truthful with your lawyer no matter what
  • Following their instructions promptly
  • Organizing relevant evidence like text messages, emails, photos etc.
  • Lining up any character witnesses who could testify on your behalf

Building an assault defense case takes time and strategic planning. So be patient, stay engaged in the process, and communicate regularly with your attorney.

Step Five: Make Appropriate Preparations for Trial

Ideally your lawyer can get your charges reduced or dismissed through preliminary motions. However you should also fully prepare for trial in case it goes that far. Your attorney will likely have you practice telling your side of the story. They’ll identify holes in the prosecution’s case and prime you for cross examination questions. If testifying seems intimidating, understand that extensive preparation makes all the difference. You and your lawyer should also discuss plea bargain options. Prosecutors often prefer resolving cases through plea deals since it saves time and expenses. If you plead guilty to lesser charges, you get predictable penalties vs. risking trial. Evaluate plea deals very carefully before accepting or rejecting them. Finally, trial means added expenses like expert witness fees, court reporter costs etc. So have funds lined up through savings, friends/family or legal financing. Missing a court date or trial due to lack of funds looks really bad!

Step Six: Make Good Choices During Trial

If efforts to dismiss/reduce charges fail, suddenly you find yourself sitting in court on trial day. Intimidating for sure, but stay calm and let your lawyer handle most of the talking. Answer questions from your attorney or the prosecution clearly and honestly. Get some rest the night before so you don’t seem nervous or confused on the stand. And absolutely show up early, dressed neatly and appropriately. Aside from testifying, your role is mainly to listen closely and jot down notes for discussion during breaks. Make sure you understand what’s happening but don’t audibly react during testimony. And warn your lawyer immediately if you spot any factual errors or questionable behavior by the prosecution.

Step Seven: Learn and Move Forward from the Verdict

After all arguments and evidence are presented, the waiting game for a verdict begins. Try to mentally prepare for either outcome – acquittal or conviction. When the jury or judge finally decides, accept the ruling gracefully even if you disagree. Yelling or sobbing in court helps no one. If convicted, remember that appeals are still an option your lawyer can pursue. But set aside emotions as you and your attorney discuss next steps like penalties, probation terms, and rehabilitation programs. If acquitted, congrats! Now focus on preventing another incident. Consider anger management classes or counseling to address root causes, even if not legally mandated. And regardless of individual outcomes, understand that assault charges often permanently damage relationships. So you may need to rebuild trust with family, partners etc. Be patient, own your mistakes and reassure loved ones through consistent good behavior.

Parting Advice

Dealing with assault charges is scary stuff. But staying calm, hiring a lawyer promptly, and listening to their guidance can help ensure the best resolution. Don’t hesitate to lean on others for emotional support too during this difficult time. And if you ever find yourself getting dangerously upset again in the future, just walk away or ask someone to intervene. Assault convictions cause trauma no one wants to repeat – for victims OR perpetrators. Protect your future by breaking the cycle of violence for good. You’ve got this! And feel free to reach out if you have any other legal questions down the road.


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