Assault is the legal term for attempting to cause physical harm to another person or placing them in fear of bodily injury. Punching someone and pulling back your fist like you intend to punch someone could constitute assault in many states, as well as under federal law.
Most assault charges will wind up prosecuted at the state level. However, assault can sometimes be a federal offense. Those charged with aggravated assault in federal court will face strict federal sentencing guidelines and the risk of incarceration in a federal facility. When do assaults that occur in New Jersey turn into federal offenses?
When the incident happened on federal property
One of the most common reasons that the federal government prosecutes someone for aggravated assault is that the incident occurs on federal property. Government buildings and even national parks are spaces where federal law rather than state law rules.
Those accused of aggravated assault on federal property will likely face federal prosecution rather than New Jersey state charges. The same would be true in a situation where the victim was a federal employee.
When the assault meets certain other criteria
Sometimes, aggravated assault falls into a strange, legal gray area where the incident might lead to either state or federal charges.
An aggravated assault that involves the intent to commit murder or a secondary felony, as well as assault with a dangerous weapon, could wind up charged as a federal offense rather than a state offense at the discretion of the authorities and law enforcement agencies involved. It’s also worth noting that there are numerous factors that can increase the risks associated with a federal aggravated assault charge.
Many factors can increase how serious a federal charge of aggravated assault is and what sentence someone faces. If there is evidence of anything more than minimal planning, that could increase the penalties. Other factors that can influence the sentence for the offense include the discharge of a firearm, the use of a dangerous weapon, causing bodily injury, strangling a spouse or intimate partner, violating a court order of protection and receiving payment for the assault.
Learning more about aggravated assault at the federal and state level can help take the mystery out of the charges and penalties someone potentially faces.