Assault is a serious criminal offense that can be punishable by jail time and will leave offenders with a criminal record of violent crime.
In North Carolina, there are three general types of assault charges, including assault, assault and battery, and affray. Aggravating factors, such as the involvement of a weapon or causing the victim serious bodily injury, can lead to enhanced sentencing and penalties.
Below, we are going to review the different types of assault that are covered by North Carolina law, and the criminal penalties you could incur if convicted.
Assault is defined as the attempt to commit assault and battery (physically harm the victim), or a show of force indicating that assault of the victim is imminent.
This means that you can be charged with assault even if you did not physically come into contact with the alleged victim. Attempting to harm the victim or showing force that would cause the victim to reasonably believe that bodily harm is imminent is considered assault.
Simple assault with no aggravating factors (which are discussed below) is charged as a Class 2 misdemeanor. When the defendant has no prior convictions, a Class 2 misdemeanor is punishable by probation and sentence of 1-30 days in jail.
Assault and Battery
Assault and battery occurs when the defendant comes into contact with the victim with the intent to cause bodily injury. If the victim suffers only a minor injury (e.g. an injury that does not require medical attention), assault and battery is also charged as a Class 2 misdemeanor.
An affray is a fight that occurs between two or more people in a public place, which is likely to frighten others. For example, a rowdy bar brawl could be charged as an affray. This is also a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Assault with a Deadly Weapon
If the assault involves a deadly weapon, it is treated much more seriously. Depending on the intent of the defendant and whether the assault caused bodily injury, this may be charged as a felony.
North Carolina recognizes four degrees of assault with a deadly weapon:
- Involving a deadly weapon: If the assault involves a deadly weapon but the defendant did not act with intent to kill the victim or cause serious bodily harm, this is charged as a Class A1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 150 days in jail. For example, if the assailant has a knife but does use it in commission of the assault, this charge could apply.
- Serious injury: If the assault involved a deadly weapon and caused the victim serious bodily injury, it is prosecuted as a Class E felony, punishable by 15-63 months of imprisonment.
- Intent to kill: If the assault involved a deadly weapon and the assailant intended to kill the victim but did not cause serious bodily injury, this is punishable as a Class E felony.
- Serious injury committed with intent to kill: If the assailant intended to kill the victim and in the process caused a serious bodily injury, this is prosecuted as a Class C felony, which is punishable by 44-98 months in prison.
Assault with Serious Bodily Injury
An assault that inflicts serious bodily injury on the victim but does not involve any other aggravating factors is charged as a Class A1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 150 days in jail.
Generally, for the injury to be considered serious, the victim does not need to actually seek or receive medical care. An injury of the sort that could require a doctor’s attention is generally considered serious for prosecution purposes.
North Carolina defines domestic violence as an assault and battery with a deadly weapon or that causes serious injury against someone with whom the assailant has a personal relationship. This includes current and former spouses or romantic partners, children, grandchildren, and people who have children together.
Domestic violence is charged as a Class A1 misdemeanor, with enhanced sentencing if the defendant has prior domestic violence convictions. A domestic violence conviction often includes civil consequences as well. For example, a protective order that forbids the defendant from contacting the victim.
Sexual battery is defined as any sexual contact or physical contact committed for sexual purposes by force, and against the victim’s will. This also applies when the contact is non-forcible and the victim is mentally incapacitated or physically helpless. Sexual battery is a Class A1 misdemeanor.
Should you take these charges seriously? Absolutely. However, an assault charge does not equate to a conviction. Depending on the circumstances of the alleged offense, a number of assault defense strategies may be available to help your case.