New Law Increases Penalties for Assaulting Nurses, Other Healthcare Workers

New Jersey Senate Democrats


TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators John Girgenti (D-Passaic) and Fred Madden (Gloucester/Camden) to upgrade the offense of assaulting a nurse or other healthcare profession to aggravated assault was signed into law today by Governor Christie.

"Under previous law, assaults against individuals in certain 'high risk' occupations such as law enforcement and teaching constituted aggravated assault, but physical violence against a nurse or other healthcare professional only amounted to a simple assault. That made no sense," said Senator Girgenti, Chairman of the Senate Law & Public Safety Committee, D-Passaic and Bergen. "Nurses devote their entire careers to saving the lives of others. Hopefully, the threat of harsher penalties will serve as a deterrent for those who seek to cause them harm."

"Health care workers are faced with the threat of violence on the job far too often," added Senator Madden. "This law would make the punishment for assaulting a nurse just as severe as the penalty for assaulting a law enforcement officer, volunteer firefighter, or EMT. This will send a clear message that we are serious about protecting the professionals who make it their life's work to protect others. Hopefully, more severe penalties will make a potential attacker think twice before lashing out."

The law (A-2309/S-911) upgrades the offense for any individual who assaults a nurse or other healthcare professional, while in the performance of his or her official duties, from a simple assault to aggravated assault. If the nurse or healthcare professional suffers bodily injury as a result of the assault, it will be classified as a third degree crime; otherwise it will be a fourth degree crime. A crime of the third degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years, a fine up to $15,000, or both. A crime of the fourth degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment for not more than 18 months, a fine up to $10,000, or both. Simple assault is classified as a disorderly persons offense, which carries a penalty of up to six months in prison, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

The Assembly approved the bill in October by a vote of 77-1. The Senate passed it in November by a vote of 35-0.