Definition of “Significant” Injury in an Assault Case

State vs. Regan  Definition of “significant” Injury in an Assault Case — temporary loss of any bodily member or organ or ‘temporary loss of any one of the five senses.”

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In this case there was a question of fact regarding what this individual defendant did to cause the injury to the alleged victim.  This defendant argues he only struck the victim in the mouth one time and as such he did not attempt to or cause a significant bodily injury required by the statute to constitution Aggravated Assault under New Jersey law. Therefore, he should only have been charged with simple assault.

The court determined that under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(7), a person is guilty of aggravated assault, when he or she “[a]ttempts to . . . or causes significant bodily injury [to another] purposely or knowingly or, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life recklessly causes such significant bodily injury.” Thus, a jury must be instructed that to find a defendant guilty, it must find that he or she caused a significant bodily injury, which is defined as “creat[ing] a temporary loss of the function of any bodily member or organ or temporary loss of any one of the five senses.” Model Jury Charge (Criminal), “Aggravated Assault – Significant Bodily Injury N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(7)” (2012).

Here, there was a factual dispute as to the injuries caused by defendant. Specifically, this dispute concerned whether the victim’s injury to the mouth could constitute a significant bodily injury. Accordingly, at the retrial, if the court finds that the State presented evidence that the victim’s mouth injury could constitute a significant bodily injury, then the court should mold the charges to reflect that evidence. For example, the charge could instruct the jury that if the jury finds that defendant hit the victim only in the mouth, the jury must also find that the State has proven a loss of function or temporary loss of one of the five senses due to the injury to the victim’s mouth. 

For additional information, read here:

Prosecutorial Misconduct Can Be a Ground for Reversal

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