On Thursday, June 25, Galloway Township police arrested a 21-year-old man from Absecon, on charges of alleged aggravated assault. Although reports are unclear as to the exact nature of his alleged offense, it is very clear that he will be facing some harsh potential penalties for this offense. The severity of the penalties that will be handed down if Harris-Witherspoon is convicted may depend significantly on the particular facts of his case.
Under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b), an offense of assault can be escalated to aggravated assault, carrying more severe penalties than simple assault, for a wide variety of reasons. One factor that can escalate assault charges to the level of aggravated assault is an attempt to cause “serious bodily injury” to another, as defined by N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(1), as opposed to an attempt that is determined to only have been intended to cause “bodily injury” under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(a)(1). Another way that this charge can be escalated to aggravated assault is as a result of the offender’s use of a deadly weapon in the alleged act of assault, as dictated by N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(2). Recklessly causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon can also be considered aggravated assault, without the intent to cause an injury even required under this definition, according to N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(3). Taking the implication of deadly weapons in the definition of this offense one step further, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(4) deems an act of pointing a firearm at another person, even if believed to be unloaded, to be aggravated assault as well. N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(5) automatically classifies an assault as aggravated if committed against law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical services, school officials, DYFS employees, judges, public transit workers, or utility workers. Under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(6), causing bodily injury while attempting to escape from the authorities is automatically escalated to aggravated assault, and N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(8) makes it an aggravated assault offense to purposely start a fire that causes bodily injury to another person. These are just a few examples; N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b) lists 11 separate categories of aggravated assault, some of which have multiple sub-parts.
The man will be facing the possibility of up to 18 months in jail and fines that could amount to $10,000 as legal consequences for this offense, with the No Early Release Act (NERA), mandating that he will have to serve at least 85 percent of any jail sentence before becoming eligible for release. If any actual bodily injuries resulted from Harris-Witherspoon’s alleged assault, the offense would escalate in severity, and also in penalties.