New Jersey College Student Defense: Assault and Battery Charges

College can be the best four years—OK, maybe five—of your life. You're on your own for the first time, figuring out who you are, what you want to do, and what matters most to you. An assault charge can end all of that pretty quickly, though. New Jersey schools have no tolerance for this kind of misconduct; even one offense can get you suspended or dismissed entirely.

If you've committed assault, your problems may not end with a disciplinary hearing. Assault isn't just a violation of school policy; it's against the law. Breaking local or state laws can get you arrested and sent to jail. Students sometimes believe they're immune from criminal investigation and prosecution simply because they're students—that they're somehow protected when they're on campus. The opposite is true. You're more likely to be caught if you commit a crime on campus, and you can be arrested just like anyone else.

If you're a New Jersey student facing either a school disciplinary charge or a criminal charge for assault, you will need help defending yourself. A criminal defense attorney can represent you in court. A college conduct advisor can help you deal with your school's administration. Joseph D. Lento can do both.

Crime Detection on New Jersey Campuses

You probably already know that assault and battery are serious crimes. They get mentioned—often in conjunction with one another—on every television detective show, legal drama, and police procedural. Anyone in New Jersey can be charged with assault and battery. As a student, you're less likely to get away with it than the average citizen. That's because you're under far more scrutiny than the average citizen.

On the one hand, you are subject to policing the same as anyone else in New Jersey. Most New Jersey schools employ a police force that is fully empowered to conduct investigations, arrest you, and make criminal referrals to local prosecutors. Often, campus officers are trained at police academies just like any other law enforcement personnel. Montclair State University, for example, brags about the fact that its police department is "an autonomous, fully certified and operational law enforcement agency." Rutgers, a larger school, maintains a force of over 180 officers.

In addition to the police, you're under constant supervision and observation by hundreds of other faculty, staff, and administrators. All colleges and universities take their responsibility to protect students seriously. Their policies often echo state and local laws, and may even be more restrictive. With so many people watching you—from professors and TAs, to resident assistants and cafeteria workers—you're almost sure to get caught if you should commit assault. You can expect your school to punish you for policy violations, but you can also expect they will refer charges to local authorities.

Whether you're dealing with an accusation from your school or the police, your best chance of proving your innocence or reducing your charges is an attorney. You don't want just any attorney, though. As a student who could potentially be dealing with both kinds of accusations at once, you need an attorney with experience dealing with both campus disciplinary investigations and criminal prosecutions. If you're a student in New Jersey, you need Joseph D. Lento.

New Jersey Assault and Battery Laws

Assault and battery usually get mentioned together. That's because they often occur together. In particular, if you commit battery, you've almost certainly committed assault as well. They're distinct crimes, however. "Assault" usually refers to the threat of bodily harm to another person. "Battery" refers to inflicting actual bodily harm on another person.

New Jersey laws further confuse the issue. As a starting point, the state doesn't have a law against "battery" as such. Instead, it has laws against two sorts of assault: simple assault and aggravated assault.

  • Simple Assault: Assault in New Jersey can refer to threatening behavior. However, unlike in other states, it can also refer to doing actual bodily harm.

Simple assault is classed as a "disorderly persons" offense. That makes it a misdemeanor and subject to up to six months in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.

  • Aggravated Assault: This offense involves using a weapon to cause bodily harm and/or recklessly or intentionally causing serious bodily harm. You can also face charges simply for pointing a loaded firearm at another person.

Aggravated assault is a felony and can be further categorized into four degrees. The most serious of these, first-degree aggravated assault, carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, and even fourth-degree aggravated assault includes an eighteen-month sentence.

Other Related Crimes in New Jersey

In addition to simple and aggravated assault charges, New Jersey also has a statute addressing "assault by auto," which concerns bodily harm caused by reckless operation of a vehicle.

It's also worth noting that assault charges can sometimes be added to harassment charges in New Jersey. Harassment can include any of four separate activities:

  • Communicating anonymously at inconvenient hours, with offensive language or in some other annoying manner.
  • Touching someone in an offensive way, including shoving, striking, or kicking.
  • Threatening to touch or strike someone.
  • Engaging in some other "alarming conduct" to annoy someone.

The second and third of these come close to the definition of simple assault. In addition, "communicating anonymously" to annoy someone could quickly turn into an assault charge if the communication involves threats of bodily injury.

Thus, harassment can often lead to assault charges, and harassment charges often accompany assault charges.

Defending New Jersey Assault Charges

Just because you've been charged by local police with assault, or indicted by the local prosecutor, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll be convicted, fined, or sent to prison. All of us are entitled to legal representation under the law, whether we're students or not. That's true in New Jersey, just as it is in every other state and the federal judicial system. The U.S. recognizes that the only way to achieve true justice in criminal cases is to give defendants every reasonable chance to defend themselves, which means the right to an attorney.

What can attorney Joseph D. Lento do for you if you're charged with assault in New Jersey?

  • Represent you at arraignment and make sure you're released without restrictive bond terms. In short, an attorney will do everything possible to make sure you can continue in school.
  • Use preliminary examination procedures to find problems with the case against you. These might include misidentification, the failure to preserve evidence, or the failure to document observations accurately.
  • Utilize your rights of discovery to uncover exonerating and/ or mitigating evidence from the police and prosecution. Such evidence can often be helpful in pretrial conferences to argue your charges should be reduced or dismissed.
  • File pretrial motions regarding how the police have treated you and whether any of your constitutional rights might have been violated. Again, such motions can result in the reduction or even dismissal of charges.
  • Hold the prosecution to a high burden in proving the elements of your crime, and use this to advocate for voluntary dismissal of the charges.
  • Represent you at trial. This includes making an opening statement, examining and cross-examination of witness, submitting evidence, and offering a closing argument.
  • File any post-trial motions and/or appeals regarding adverse findings, prosecutorial misconduct, or court errors.

Joseph D. Lento has successfully defended hundreds of students in New Jersey and nationwide, helping them prove their innocence or reduce their charges in assault and battery cases. He can help you to do the same.

New Jersey College and University Assault Policies

Wherever you are enrolled as a student in New Jersey, you can expect your college or university to follow all state and local laws. Many even include that as a part of their policies. Montclair University's Student Code of Conduct, for example, notes, "Students are not permitted to violate any local, state or federal law on campus, in other municipalities, or in University-related events." Obviously, such a policy would apply to instances of assault.

In addition, all New Jersey schools have prohibitions against assault that echo those found in the law. Rowan University, for instance, prohibits "Harm to persons," including

  • Bullying
  • Coercion
  • Harassment
  • Intimidation
  • Physical violence
  • Stalking
  • Threats

Of course, not all of these examples would rise to a criminal offense. School policies are almost always more restrictive than state and local laws. Bullying, for instance, might not include threats of bodily harm, in which case it wouldn't qualify as criminal assault. That won't matter to your university. If you're accused of violating policy, you are subject to investigation and adjudication under the school's judicial procedures. Should you be found responsible, you can be punished with sanctions up to and including expulsion.

New Jersey University Disciplinary Procedures

If you've been charged with a crime in New Jersey, your school may wait on the outcome of any criminal proceedings. Still, you can be sure it will ultimately initiate its disciplinary proceedings against you. This can happen even if you're cleared of criminal charges. Of course, you don't have to face a criminal investigation to be charged by your school with violating policy. All New Jersey schools have published rules, usually in their student conduct codes, detailing their process for handling such violations.

These processes vary from university to university, but typically, they involve an investigation and some adjudication—usually a hearing. These give you the chance to tell your side of the story, to present evidence, and to solicit witness testimony.

The Rutgers student disciplinary process offers a good example.

  • All complaints of misconduct are directed to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards (OSCCS).
  • Once the OSCCS receives a complaint, it assigns a Conduct Officer to investigate. Typically, investigations involve meeting with both sides in the case, collecting any physical evidence, and interviewing any witnesses.
  • If they find no substantive evidence to back up the initial accusation, the Conduct Officer dismisses the charges. If they believe you may have committed an offense, however, they refer the matter to the University Hearing Board.
  • At the hearing itself, you can argue your side of the case formally, present evidence, and call witnesses to testify on your behalf.
  • Finally, you also have the right to appeal the hearing outcome to the Campus Appeals Committee. However, grounds for appeal are limited to an unsupported conclusion, a procedural error, the discovery of new information, or a disproportionate sanction.

Having an attorney at your side during school disciplinary investigations and hearings is no less crucial than in an actual criminal case. The right attorney can help you create a defense strategy, coach you on answering questions, and in most cases accompany you to interviews and judicial proceedings. You need an attorney who is experienced at dealing with faculty and administrators, someone who knows how to navigate campus judicial systems, and understands what's at stake in these kinds of investigations.

Premier New Jersey Student Defense Attorney, Joseph D. Lento

Joseph D. Lento is a skilled New Jersey criminal defense attorney who built his career representing student clients. He has vast courtroom experience, but he's just as comfortable standing in front of a university appeals board. More important than anything else, Joseph D. Lento knows the challenges you face as a student. No matter what kind of charges you're facing—criminal or disciplinary—he'll make sure you get a fair hearing and the best possible resolution to your case. At the same time, he wants to make sure your education doesn't suffer while you defend yourself. He takes care of the details so you can concentrate on attending class and studying.

If you're a student in trouble—no matter what the charges—invest in an attorney who knows how to handle whatever may come up. Protect your education and your future. Contact attorney Lento now at 888.535.3686 or go online for help.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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