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Aggravated assault is no ordinary assault charge. When an assault is “aggravated” it signals something or someone in the case made the incident even more dangerous. Factors will vary from case to case. 

Even as the country is experiencing a downtrend in the rates of aggravated assault, North Carolina has seen an increase in these types of crimes. A government report found that in 2017, violent crimes increased statewide by 2.3%. Murder and rape rates decreased, but aggravated assault rates increased by almost 4%.  

Furthermore, while aggravated assaults are often painted as assault with a firearm, this isn’t always the case. It may surprise you to learn that nearly 20% of all North Carolina aggravated assault charges don’t involve a physical weapon. (These charges usually involve a body part instead.) 

Aggravated assault charges come with more severe penalties than typical assault charges. So understanding the difference between assault and aggravated assault is in your best interest. It may provide you with a way to have your aggravated assault charges reduced. 

What Does North Carolina Consider Aggravated Assault?

Aggravated assault, simply put, is a more severe assault. North Carolina defines assault as an act that attempts (or succeeds) to physically injure another person. 

A bar fight could lead to assault charges. Lunging at another person with the attempt to punch them could also lead to assault charges. Simple threats may also result in assault charges, although these charges won’t be more than a misdemeanor offense. 

Not all assaults lead to just a physical injury. Some may result in serious physical injuries. If the victim is more seriously injured, or the threat of serious physical injury is present, the offender may be charged with aggravated assault. 

How the Victim’s Status May Aggravate an NC Assault Charge 

North Carolina considers the victim, as well as the type of force used in an assault when pressing charges. For example, the state has a specific law on assaults against people with a disability. This is what the law has to say: 

“Any person who commits any aggravated assault or assault and battery on an individual with a disability is guilty of a Class F felony. [That is] in the course of the assault or assault and battery, that person does any of the following:

  • Uses a deadly weapon or other means of force likely to inflict serious injury or serious damage to an individual with a disability.
  • Inflicts serious injury or serious damage to an individual with a disability.
  • Intends to kill an individual with a disability.” 

Intention to kill, serious bodily injury, and the use of a deadly weapon may all result in aggravated assault charges. 

How a Body Part May Be Considered a Weapon in NC

Remember, not all “deadly weapons” are firearms or knives. In fact, the rate of aggravated assaults with a knife or cutting instrument has decreased over time while overall aggravated assault charges increased in NC. 

This is because when the way they are used can or does inflict serious bodily injury, body parts may also be considered a deadly weapon. Hands, feet, fists, or the offender’s head may all fall under this category. Many cases throughout North Carolina history have tried to clarify when hands and feet are considered deadly weapons. 

They aren’t always considered deadly weapons in cases involving robbery or murder. Depending on how the offender’s body parts were used in the assault, a prosecutor may try to pursue an assault with a deadly weapon charge. 

Penalties for NC Aggravated Assault Charges Vary

A judge will look at aggravating factors before ruling on an aggravated assault case. These aggravating factors could mean the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony charge. Felony charges also take away an offender’s right to own firearms or vote (temporarily.) 

If you are charged with aggravated assault, know what factors could influence penalties or charges

  • Intent to kill and serious injury inflicted: These two factors are considered the most serious in North Carolina assault law. If prosecutors can prove that the offender intended to kill the victim and managed to inflict serious injury, they will face Class C felony charges. 
  • Intent to kill: Without a deadly weapon present or serious injury inflicted, aggravated assault charges in North Carolina will be a Class E felony.
  • Serious injury with a deadly weapon: If these two factors are present, but the offender did not intend to kill the victim, they could still face Class E felony charges. 
  • A deadly weapon is present: If this is the only aggravating factor in the case, charges are an A1 misdemeanor. Offenders could face up to 150 days in jail but will retain their right to own firearms or vote. 

These are serious charges. If you have been arrested or charged with aggravated assault charges, reach out to a North Carolina defense lawyer for advice. 

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