Criminal law is nuanced. Even the smallest details can have a big impact on your case, especially when it comes to the differences between crimes such as assault and aggravated assault.
That’s why the way your case is handled can be the difference between a long jail sentence or being acquitted of the crimes for which you’ve been accused.
Here’s what you need to know about assault and aggravated assault charges in North Carolina and the way an experienced lawyer should handle your case.
North Carolina Assault Law
There are different levels of assault in North Carolina. You can be charged with misdemeanor simple assault, serious assault, or aggravated assault – it just depends on the circumstances surrounding your case.
In North Carolina, assault, in general, is defined as a reasonable threat of bodily injury made toward another person that instills in them the fear that they will be harmed.
Simple Misdemeanor Assault
Simple assault occurs when the injuries to the victim are minor. It is often charged as a Class 2 misdemeanor. If you have no prior criminal record, this charge could result in probation following up to a month in jail. If you have prior convictions, then your time in jail could be increased up to 60 days.
This type of assault results in the serious injury of the victim. It can also be charged if certain people were the target of the assault, such as a police officer. This can be charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor which typically results in a maximum sentence of 45 days in jail plus probation.
Aggravated assault occurs when a deadly weapon is used in the commission of the assault crime, coupled with serious bodily injury to the victim or the intent to seriously injure or kill them. This is a Class C felony in North Carolina, which can result in up to 98 months in prison if found guilty.
Proper Procedures for Assault Cases in NC
Having an experienced attorney to represent you in an assault case is essential, especially if the charges are for aggravated assault since it can carry significant penalties.
There are procedures followed by the court and those involved in a case in order for it to move forward legally. These include a written notice, entering a plea, as well as a charge conference. Read more about each below.
Those that represent the state in the case must provide the defendant written notice if there are any aggravating factors included in the case that they intend to be brought up in trial or if there’s a plea of no contest. This must be done 30 days before the entry of the plea or trial.
The notice lists every specific aggravating factor that the state wants to bring forward in order to seek a penalty in the aggravated range.
A pleading must, under the law, include the aggravating factors the state intends to include. These factors, called non-statutory aggravating factors, must be included in any charging document.
If the charges included aggravating factors and a trial is to take place, then the court is required to conduct what is called a charge conference on the instructions that will be given to the jury related to the aggravating factors.
The law can be confusing to those who don’t study it each day. That’s why having an attorney to represent you in serious matters like aggravated assault can be the difference between a minor sentence if convicted and a much lengthier one. So, know your rights and understand what your lawyer should be doing to make sure those rights are protected.