So you’ve been charged with assault. The incident may have been the result of uncontrolled anger, a one-time offense, or a slip-up that calls for rehabilitation, but not punishment. Being punished is exactly what’s going to happen, though, unless you fight back, and you’re not going to like the penalties that the prosecutor tries to stick you with.
Want to give yourself the best chance at a positive outcome? In order to properly defend against assault charges, you have to understand how the law works in North Carolina.
Understanding Your Assault Charges
What Is Assault?
Each state has a different definition of assault and battery. In North Carolina, assault is the act of threatening to inflict harm upon another person. Battery occurs when actual harm is done to a victim through physical contact or a deadly weapon.
What Will You Be Charged With?
There are many different types of assault charges in North Carolina. The charges are most often determined by the injuries suffered by the victim, and the status of the victim (age, gender, etc.).
Simple Assault/Assault and Battery Charge – If the victim does not need medical attention for their injuries, and no aggravating factors are present, you will face simple assault charges. These charges are Class 2 misdemeanors.
Assault with Aggravating Factors – The following charges are more serious, starting at Class A1 Misdemeanors. Each of the charges have a specific “aggravating factor” present. These factors make the crimes more serious in North Carolina law.
If multiple aggravating factors are present, the charge may be considered a felony. (For example, someone who assaults another person with a deadly weapon, with the intent to kill, and who inflicts serious injury, may be charged with a Class C felony.)
Aggravating factors include:
- Assault inflicting serious injury
- Intent to kill or inflict serious injury
- Assault with a deadly weapon
- Domestic violence
- Sexual battery
- Assault against a woman
- Assault against a child under the age of 12
- Assault against a public official (state employees, public transit officials, private security officers, etc.)
A list of more specific charges can be found here.
What Are the Penalties?
Class 2 misdemeanors may result in up to 30 days in jail, probation, or up to $1,000 in fines.
Class 1 misdemeanors may result in up to 45 days in jail, probation, or fines.
Class A1 misdemeanors may result in up to 60 days in jail, probation, supervised probation, or fines.
The above penalties are recommended for first-time offenders. If a defendant has prior assault convictions on their criminal record, jail sentences may be doubled, or even tripled. Additional penalties are also given to defendants convicted on domestic violence charges.
How Can You Avoid a Conviction?
Even misdemeanor offenses on your record can add up, so it is best to strongly defend against any charge. Fortunately, there are numerous defense strategies that you can use against assault and other related charges.
The following are commonly used defenses. Depending on the situation in which you were arrested, some of these defenses may not be appropriate or applicable. Other defenses may be available to you as well. You should consult legal counsel before you pursue any of the following defense strategies:
- Self Defense
- Defense of Others/Defense of Property
- False Accusation
- Wrong Person (alibi)
- Lack of Evidence
- Lack of Aggravating Factors (deadly weapon was not present, lack of intention to inflict serious injury, etc.)
The best defense strategy is getting a North Carolina assault lawyer to represent you during your case.
About the Author:
Jan Elliott Pritchett is Managing Partner at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett and one of North Carolina’s top rated criminal defense attorneys. With a practice dedicated 100% to litigation, Mr. Pritchett protects the legal rights of clients who have been charged in federal and state criminal matters, as well as DUI/DWi, motor vehicle accidents, personal injury, and traffic violations. In practice since 1995, Mr. Pritchett has earned a reputation as a highly talented and fearless lawyer, being listed among the state’s “Legal Elite” and recognized as one of the Top 100 DWI Lawyers in North Carolina by the National Advocacy of DUI Defense. He currently serves as the Co-Chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Legal Specialization, Criminal Law Specialty, and Vice-Chairman of the North Carolina Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section.