Statistics show that 10 million people throughout the United States are abused by an intimate partner annually. Simply put, domestic violence, which also covers abuse between family members and roommates, is an epidemic.
Because of this, all kinds of laws have been put on the books over the last few decades, with some more serious than others. Our state has “simple” assault charges for less serious incidents of domestic violence, and “aggravated” assault charges for more serious incidents. The difference in these two charges could mean harsher penalties – some that can last a lifetime.
What makes a domestic violence charged “aggravated” in North Carolina? A few different factors.
In this post, we’re going to go over the law and the state’s approach to domestic violence in general, as well as detailing the specific factors that can make your charge aggravated.
About North Carolina and Domestic Violence Charges
Before we talk about aggravated domestic violence charges, let’s discuss how North Carolina approaches domestic violence as a whole.
First off, there is no separate assault charge if the victim is a spouse, significant other, family member, or roommate. If the victim and the abuser had a “personal relationship,” that relationship will be considered as the alleged abuser is being charged.
Penalties for a “simple” assault charge in North Carolina include up to 60 days behind bars or on probation. Domestic violence offenders may have to face additional domestic violence penalties, including counseling or spending time in a rehabilitation facility. If the offender is put on probation, they will have to be supervised.
Aggravated Domestic Violence Charges in North Carolina
There are three factors that elevate a simple assault charge to an aggravated assault charge. These factors will also bump charges up from misdemeanor to felony charges, which results in lifetime penalties at both the state and federal level.
Use of a deadly weapon. This first factor includes firearms and other weapons that can be used to seriously injure or kill another person. If this is the only factor in an assault charge, the crime is a class A1 misdemeanor. However, if it is paired with another aggravating factor, charges are elevated to a class E felony.
Serious injury. Victims of assault are not required to seek medical attention in order to press charges. An incident that causes slight bruising still counts as assault.
However, if the victim is required to seek medical attention for broken bones or other types of serious injuries, this will be considered during the criminal trial and can lead to aggravated charges. (Victims of domestic assault can also file a civil lawsuit against their alleged abuser in order to receive compensation for medical bills and other financial damages.)
Intent to kill. This factor is pretty self-explanatory. If a judge can determine that the alleged abuser had the intention to kill their victim, they will face elevated charges. Intent to kill may be determined by threats as well as the nature of the assault itself.
If assault with a deadly weapon is paired with just one of these factors, the offender will face class E felony charges. Penalties for a class E felony 15-31 months in prison for a first conviction.
If the assault with a deadly weapon is paired with intent to kill and serious injury, the charges are elevated even further to a class C felony. Penalties for a class C felony include 44-98 months (that’s just over eight years at the high end) behind bars.
Additionally, felons in North Carolina lose “citizenship rights” (including the right to vote) while they are serving their sentence.
Other Factors That Play into the Level of Assault Charges in North Carolina
The relationship between the victim and abuser is not the only factor that judges consider in North Carolina. If any of the following are present in your case, it is crucial to speak to a North Carolina defense lawyer and learn more about what kind of assault charges you will face:
- Assault to a woman or pregnant woman
- Trespassing, stalking, or harassment
- Presence of a child
- Damage to personal property
- Interfering with medical care or emergency personnel
- Prior assault convictions
- Sexual assault and battery
- Neglect or exploitation of elder adults
- Pointing a gun
Every case is different and may require different defense strategies. No matter what you find yourself up against, though, you are always innocent until proven guilty. This means that it is always possible to walk away without penalties if you are able to put together a strong enough defense.