How To Drop Simple Assault Charges - Overview
“How to drop simple assault charges” is a question we get asked every day. Dropping simple assault charges is possible but it is not easy. These question usually comes from a victim who does not want to go forward with a prosecution. Examples include situations where a couple argue, things get heated and one partner slaps the other. The aggressor reacted impulsively & instantly regrets his/her actions. But you can still be held criminally liable for these actions.
You could get arrested for simple assault if a police officer witnesses your actions. Or, the victim of your assault may call 911. When the police arrive they conduct an investigation. The victim states that he/she got slapped and has the reddish mark on his/her check to support the claim.
The police will question you & you may admit to slapping your partner. You might say, “Yes, I slapped him/her but I’m really sorry and it won’t ever happen again.” Even though you were sincere, everything you just said is an admission & the only evidence the police need to arrest you. Now you’re facing criminal charges in Municipal court & you want to know how to get simple assault charges dismissed.
Let’s get into it.
Simple Assault - NJSA 2C:12-1a (1)
Simple Assault –
NJSA 2C:12-1a (1)
Attempting to cause, or purposely, knowingly, or recklessly causing, bodily injury to another
In Plain English
This means that you tried & failed to hurt someone
OR that you really did hurt someone
OR you never “intended” to harm anyone but you did so anyway.
NJSA 2C:12-1a (2)
Negligently causing bodily injury to another using a deadly weapon
In Plain English
An example would be pointing your replica gun at someone to scare that person. As a result, that person suffers a nervous breakdown.
NJSA 2C:12-1a (3)
Attempting by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury
In Plain English
An example would be shooting a real gun into the side of a house for the purpose of scaring the victim.
How To Drop Simple Assault Charges - Step 1) Who Filed The Complaint?
The first step in getting any type of criminal charges dismissed involves identifying how the complaint was generated. In simple assault cases, complaints will take one of two forms. Either the police conducted an investigation & generated a complaint or a private citizen went to the local police department to make a complaint.
If a private citizen made a complaint, the police may follow up and conduct an additional investigation. It happens but it’s not common in misdemeanor cases. However, if a private citizen comes forward with aggravated sexual assault, statutory rape, or murder allegations, you can guarantee that law enforcement will thoroughly investigate these allegations.
Now, if the police respond to a 911 call or observe you committing a simple assault, they will generate a criminal complaint against you. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the police will file simple assault charges. Most of the time their investigations are thorough, detailed, and complete. But once you identify who generated the complaint against you, you & your criminal lawyer can examine the evidence.
How To Drop Simple Assault Charges - Step 2) How Strong Is The Evidence?
Once you & your lawyer have determined whether yours is a State or private citizen complaint, the next step involves examining the evidence.
With rare exceptions, private citizen complaints are weak on the evidence. A private citizen’s investigative powers are extremely limited when compared to law enforcement. Much of the evidence that a private citizen produces is inadmissible. The criminal rules of evidence do not allow hearsay & irrelevant evidence to be used at trial. Private citizens tend to gather this type of evidence and any decent criminal lawyer can get it kicked out of the trial.
Now, if you have a police or State case, be prepared for a higher quantity & quality of evidence. When the police conduct a simple assault investigation, they will attach all of their police reports, photographs, body-cam video, and witness statements to your simple assault file. By the nature of their job, police officers are empowered to question anyone who might have information regarding their investigation & to conduct legal searches for evidence.
Although police officers conduct better investigations & gather better quality evidence than the average citizen, they still make mistakes. You must study the evidence against you carefully to find contradictions in witness statements, mistakes in police narratives, and missing or omitted evidence.
Step 3) convince the prosecutor that he/she doesn't have a case
Persuading a Prosecutor to drop your simple assault charges is possible, but it’s not easy. Persuasion is the heart & soul of plea bargaining. We never make demands on a prosecutor. Instead, we show the weaknesses in their case.
In order to successfully persuade a Prosecutor to dismiss your case, we have to provide strong evidence that shows you are innocent. We call this “exculpatory evidence”. It means, “to show that you are without guilt”.
Exculpatory evidence could take many forms.
Surveillance video: we provide the Prosecutor with surveillance videos or cell videos that show you did not commit simple assault.
For example, one of our Newark clients was charged with committing simple assault against a total stranger outside of a convenience store. 911 was called, the police showed up & observed our client holding the alleged victim in a headlock. The police grabbed our client & arrested him.
We believed in our client’s story. He explained that he was the victim of a crime and was acting in self-defense. The convenience store did not have surveillance cameras but the auto-body shop across the street did. We got the footage and our client was absolutely telling the truth. Within minutes of getting this evidence to the prosecutor, we were able to get his simple assault charges dismissed.
Alibi Documents & Certifications:
This type of exculpatory evidence includes witness certifications stating that you were not at the scene of the crime on the date & time in question. They also include airline tickets, hotel reservations, hospital records indicating that you were elsewhere at the time of the crime.
In one of our Bergen County cases, our client was charged with simple assault on a certain date & time. He explained that he was not even in the State of New Jersey for the entire month of when the incident allegedly occurred. He gathered all of his travel proofs & we made an appointment with the prosecutor. It appears that either the alleged victim was being less than truthful or the police had a case of mistaken identity. Either way, it doesn’t matter. We got the prosecutor to agree with dropping his simple assault charges.
Communications From The Alleged Victim:
Since most of these cases involve people who know each other, the victim in your case may have sent you a communication after the incident that helps you.
For example, one of our Jersey City clients facing simple assault charges received dozens of text messages from the alleged victim in his case after the incident.
In her messages to our client, she wrote, “I’m sorry I got you in trouble with the police, I know that it was wrong to lie about you slapping me but I was so angry that you cheated on me.”
Do you know what we did? We printed out all of these messages and showed them to the prosecutor. If this case were to go to trial, these text messages would serve as strong evidence to establish reasonable doubt. The prosecutor agreed to dropping simple assault charges.
Step 4) Filing A motion to dismiss for lack of prosecution
If we cannot persuade the prosecutor to dismiss your case, we don’t give up. Sometimes we do not have powerful exculpatory evidence & the prosecutor has no choice but to go forward. When your case goes forward, this means that the alleged victim needs to appear in court. After all, the alleged victim is the State’s star witness. Although a police officer can testify to what he/she observed after arriving on the scene, the police officer seldom is a witness in real-time. If the police officer’s testimony is only about the redness he observed on the alleged victim’s cheek, the prosecutor still needs to prove that you caused the redness.
When the alleged witness fails to appear in court, as your criminal lawyers we file a motion to dismiss for lack of prosecution. In simple terms, this means that we’re asking the judge to dismiss the case because the prosecutor cannot prove their case without their star witness.
Since simple assault cases are generally “he said, she said” cases, the only way that a court can find you guilty is if the alleged victim’s testimony is more credible than yours. Now, if the alleged victim never goes to court, then the prosecutor cannot go to trial without their victim. Courts are reluctant to grant these motions and will reschedule your case many times before granting such a motion.
One way to answer the question, “How To Drop Simple Assault Charges” is by simply stating: persistence pays off.
How To Drop Simple Assault Charges - Final thoughts
As you can appreciate, when it comes to dropping simple assault charges, there is not a “one size fits all” approach. If the alleged victim in your case insists on going to trial, then you must prepare for trial. You will have your day in court and we will prepare the best defense available. However, if the judge finds you guilty of simple assault in New Jersey, you face up to six months in jail and up to a $1,000- fine. You will get a criminal conviction and you will need to wait for 5 years before you can expunge it.
If getting your simple assault charges dropped is not an option, you may consider participation in a diversionary program. Depending on the charges you face, you may be eligible for the Pretrial Intervention or Conditional Dismissal program. After successfully completing either one of these programs, your charges will get dismissed & you will have avoided jail & getting a criminal record.