Assault is an offense that is taken incredibly serious in just about every state in the nation. However, in some states it is considered a violent crime even when physical violence has not necessarily ensued. In North Carolina, assault occurs when a person is touched unlawfully or if put in the position where he or she fears being touched by another person. Therefore, a person can be charged with this serious offense without laying a finger on an alleged victim.
State statutes detail several forms of assault, which are categorized as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The severity of a charge and the various penalties that accompany these charges will be determined by individualized circumstances in each case. Who was harmed, the extent in which he or she was harmed and how he or she was harmed are factors that typically distinguish misdemeanor level assault from a felony assault. For the purposes of this article, we will address (1) the conduct that constitutes both misdemeanor and felony assault in North Carolina and (2) the penalties associated with these offenses.
Simple assault is the most basic and common form of assault. North Carolina statutes detail that a person is guilty of committing this offense when he or she:
- Unlawfully makes physical contact with someone, or
- Performs a “show of violence” against another person.
When an individual performs a show of violence, it means that he or she is threatening to harm someone with the intent to intimidate or put fear in an alleged victim. This means that in order to be charged with assault, a person does not necessarily need to make physical contact with an alleged victim. Threatening to do so is enough to constitute this offense.
Examples of actions that could lead to a simple assault conviction include raising a closed fist to another person and acting as if you will hit him or her, or pushing someone for saying something that you don't like.
Proving that a simple assault occurred in court heavily depends on how an alleged victim felt at the time the perceived assault ensued. There are three elements that must be proven to charge a defendant with this crime.
- Intent: prosecutors must provide evidence that shows the defendant knowingly and intentionally attempted to harm another individual or scare an individual into believing that he or she will soon be physically harmed.
- Perception of harm: An alleged victim must have reasonably perceived that the threat was made towards him or he and that it had a high likelihood of being carried out.
- Harm: The alleged victim must have been harmed in some capacity. The term “harm” is not limited to a physical injury. The fear of imminent bodily injury is legally deemed as harmful.
Simple assault is a class 2 misdemeanor in the state of North Carolina. Defendants who are convicted of this offense will face a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
Other Types of Misdemeanor Assault
This offense can be elevated to a class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 120 days in jail, if a defendant is proven to have done the following in the commission of an assault:
- Committed the crime of domestic violence;
- Committed the crime of sexual battery;
- Assaulted a woman or a minor under the age of 12 and the defendant is a male over the age of 18; or
- Committed assault against an employee of the state, a school employee or a sports official.
Assault with a deadly weapon
According to North Carolina law, it is a felony offense for a person to assault another person with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill and/or inflict serious bodily injury. In order to completely understand this law, the terms “deadly weapon,” “serious bodily injury” and “intent to kill” must be clarified.
Although this term is not explicitly defined in state statutes, it is generally referred to as any object that can be used to take the life of another person. Some of the items that are commonly labeled deadly weapons are firearms, knives, brass knuckles, etc.
Serious Bodily Injury
North Carolina statute defines serious bodily injury as “bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death, or that causes permanent disfigurement, coma, a permanent or protracted condition that causes extreme pain, or permanent or protracted loss of impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ, that results in prolonged hospitalization.”
Intent to Kill
This term refers to factors of a case that reveals the assault was commissioned by a defendant in an attempt to kill another person. Prosecutors often prove that this element exists through words spoken by a defendant in the midst of the assault, proof of the previous animosity between a victim and a defendant, and the way in which an assault is carried out.
Assault with a deadly weapon involving serious injury or committed with intent to kill is classified as a class E felony. This offense carries penalties of up to 5 years (63 months) in prison. Assault with a deadly weapon resulting in serious injury and committed with intent to kill is considered a class C felony, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison (182 months).
Experienced North Carolina Defense Attorneys
Assault is a serious crime. As you can see, a charge of assault in any form can compromise the freedom of individuals accused of this crime. If you have been arrested for assault, you should consult with a knowledgeable attorney who is well-versed in the complexities of North Carolina assault law. Contact Caulder & Valentine today for a consultation.