A North Carolina woman has been charged with assault and possession of a weapon on school grounds after what she felt was an attempt to defend her son from bullying.
The woman, 32-year-old Olga Cortez, followed her son’s school bus into the middle school parking lot, where she allegedly confronted two teens, who she said had been bullying her son for months. One of the teens allegedly assaulted Cortez, and she reportedly took out a knife and began brandishing it in the air.
Ms. Cortez has been charged with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and one count of possession of a weapon on school grounds. She was taken into police custody, and has since been released on bail. Both of the supposed bullies have been charged with simple assault, and all three (including Ms. Cortez’s son) have been charged with one count of public affray.
She now faces very severe charges due to her attempt to defend her son from bullying. What is the law on assault in North Carolina, and what penalties does Ms. Cortez face?
Assault is defined as the attempt to cause another bodily harm (battery), or as a show of force suggesting that an assault and battery is imminent. Importantly, assault does not involve actual injury. The threat of bodily injury is sufficient to bring assault charges.
Simple assault is defined as assault without any aggravating factors such as the use of a weapon, serious bodily injury, or assault of certain people, such as paramedics or police officers. The two supposed bullies were charged with simple assault, which will be processed by the juvenile justice system.
Assault with a Deadly Weapon
Because Ms. Cortez allegedly brandished a deadly weapon after she was assaulted by the supposed bullies, she has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon, which is a form of aggravated assault. In North Carolina, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending upon the nature of the offense.
Misdemeanor Assault with a Deadly Weapon
If the assault involves the use or brandishing of a deadly weapon but no bodily harm is done and the defendant does not intend to kill the victim(s), the defendant is generally charged with misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon.
Because Ms. Cortez did not allegedly commit battery or have the intent to kill her victims, she has been charged with three counts of misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon.
This is a Class A1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by probation, supervised probation, or a jail sentence of 1-60 days, and up to 150 days if the defendant has prior offenses. The judge may also assess a fine of an amount that is left to the judge’s discretion.
Felony Assault with a Deadly Weapon
Felony-level assault with a deadly weapon occurs when bodily injury is inflicted, or the assailant has the intent to kill the victim(s). This is a Class E felony punishable by 15-31 months’ imprisonment. If bodily injury occurs and the defendant intends to kill the victim, this will be charged as a Class C felony, punishable by 44-98 months’ imprisonment.
Weapon on School Grounds
Because the alleged assault took place on school property and involved the use of a knife, Ms. Cortez has also been charged with one count of possession of a weapon on educational property.
Carrying or possessing a knife on school grounds is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 120 days in jail and a potential discretionary fine assessed by the judge.
As this is a unique situation where Ms. Cortez allegedly engaged in her illegal behavior as a way of protecting her son, she should definitely seek the counsel of an experienced North Carolina criminal lawyer. He or she will be able to provide her with the strongest possible defense strategy, designed to get her charges reduced, dropped, or dismissed.
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.