Simple Assault on teachers – State v. Cannarella

Yesterday’s Appellate Division decision in State v. Cannarella reveals a loophole in the assault statute. Normally, simple assault constitutes a disorderly persons offense. However, in certain instances, the professional status of the victim will raise the level of the offense to a third or fourth degree crime.

In Cannarella, the defendant perpetrated a simple assault upon a teacher. Under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(5)(d), a simple assault on a teacher constitutes a crime of the third degree. The defendant sought to dismiss his indictment on the grounds that the teacher in this case was not a public employee, but rather taught at a private school. After a denial of his motion at the trial level, the defendant entered a conditional plea.

The Appellate Division reversed and ruled that the upgrade of simple assault upon a teacher under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(5)(d) was intended by the Legislature to apply only to public school teachers and not those employed by private institutions. The net result of this opinion is that public school teacher receive a greater degree of protection from assaultive conduct by students, parents and others than private school teachers.

Download a copy of State v. Cannarella

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