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Under the New Jersey Law, What Exactly Does “Assault By Auto” Mean?


A person charged with an “Assault by Auto” is violating N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1c. This can be an indictable criminal offense in New Jersey. In other legal systems or States, it is a felony. By definition, you might charge with “Assault by Auto” in New Jersey if you have driven “recklessly” AND have caused bodily injury to another person. Bodily injury is a physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition. Serious bodily injury refers to a bodily injury, which creates a substantial risk of death, or serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

What Is Included As Reckless Conduct As It Relates To Assault By Auto Under New Jersey Law?

An Assault by Auto is “normally” connected with a DUI/DWI, as it is the easiest way to show recklessness; however, reckless can mean many things. If, for example, a person was racing on the highway, and has caused an accident in which another person sustains bodily injury, there are grounds to charge the defendant with Assault by Auto. Use of a cell phone while driving, if this leads to an accident in which someone is injured, can also give rise to a charge of Assault by Auto.

What Are The Different Grades Or Levels Of Assault By Auto Charges In New Jersey?

Generally, a defendant charged with Assault by Auto where a DWI is alleged in New Jersey will be facing a fourth, third, or second-degree crime, which is all indictable offenses; however, there are circumstances in which the charge might consider a disorderly person offense.

How Does The Severity Of Injuries On The Victim Affect The Charge Of Assault By Auto In NJ?

If a defendant charges with Assault by Auto in New Jersey, he is generally facing a fourth-degree crime. If the circumstances prove that the victim in the case has a serious bodily injury resulting directly from the defendant’s reckless conduct, he could be found guilty of Assault by Auto under fourth degree and sentenced up to 18 months in jail and $10,000.00 in fines.

The grade of the crime will increase if the defendant was driving under the influence of liquor or drugs during the time of the offense, a violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. This means that a defendant is guilty of DUI/DWI and Assault by Auto with serious bodily injury, is a third-degree crime. If non-serious bodily injury occurs, it is a fourth-degree crime.

If the defendant is driving recklessly, while in violation of the DUI/DWI statute, and is on or within 1000 feet of school property, and serious bodily injury occurs, it will be elevated to a second-degree crime. If non-serious bodily injury occurs, it will be a third-degree crime.

Assault by Auto could be considered a disorderly person offense if a defendant was NOT proven to have been driving while intoxicated, and is found to have caused non-serious bodily injury; however, if convicted, he still faces up to six (6) months in jail, and a fine of $1,000.00.

What Are Assault By Auto Penalties In New Jersey?

As with all indictable criminal charges for violent crimes, the maximum monetary penalties for convictions of Assault by Auto are astronomical:

  • Disorderly Persons Offense –fine up to $1000, up to six months in county jail
  • Fourth Degree Offense –$10,000, up to 18 months in prison
  • Third Degree Offense –$15,000, except drug-related offenses, which carry a maximum of $35,000, three to five years in prison
  • Second Degree Offense –$150,000, five to ten years in prison
  • First Degree Offense –$200,000, ten to twenty years in prison

These numbers do not include additional monetary penalties, such as the Victims of Crime Compensation Board assessment, or the Safe Neighborhood Service Fund assessment.

If The Charge Of Assault By Auto In NJ Also Involves A DWI Charge, How Does That Affect A Case?

Charge of Assault by Auto is one of the elements that would affect the degree at which a person is charged. However, if convicted, would directly result in harsher penalties and fines.

I Have Been Charged With Assault By Auto In NJ. Am I Going To Jail?

Potentially – all penalties for Assault by Auto include jail time, serving jail time by the degree of the crime; however, jail time is not mandatory unless you are convicted of this crime.

I Was Convicted Of Assault By Auto In NJ. For How Long Am I Going To Lose My License?

Up to twenty years, depending on the facts of your charge

I Was Convicted Of Assault By Auto And Have A Commercial Driver’s License. Is My Career Over?

Yes.

Are There Possible Defenses To Assault By Auto Charges In NJ?

Defenses will most likely be determined by the “recklessness” of the accident and possible proof of intent. Additionally, there is the ability of the State to prove impairment (DUI/DWI) using chemical breath analysis, standardized field sobriety testing, blood/urine analysis, and other means. Mr. Abate is an expert in standardized field sobriety testing and has DRE training. He is a member of the National College for DWI Defense and is on the board of the State Bar committee that handles DWI cases, and will use his knowledge and experience to find all possible defenses you may have if you’ve been charged with Assault by Auto.

Can I Get Probation For Assault By Auto In NJ? What About Taking Driving Safety Courses?

You could potentially get probation on the first charge of assault by auto, depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident; however, you cannot just take a driving safety course to minimize the penalties you are facing.

For more information on Assault By Auto in New Jersey, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (908) 210-9755 today.

The Law Offices of James A. Abate LLC

Get your questions answered – call me for your free, 20 min phone consultation (908) 210-9755

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