On television, we often hear police and lawyers use words like assault and battery interchangeably. Due to this, there can be confusion on what those charges actually mean. At Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas, LLP, our criminal law team has defined what an assault charge means in North Carolina.

raleigh criminal attorneyWhat is Considered Assault in North Carolina?

Assault – A reasonable threat of bodily injury that instills fear of harm in the victim. Listed as a crime and tort, thereby resulting in either criminal and/or civil liability. Some jurisdictions include physical attack as part of assault. Those jurisdictions consider arguments, slapping or pushing as simple assault cases.

The term assault applies to a variety of charges, classes and degrees.

Types of Assault Charges

  • Simple – misdemeanor, least serious (minor injury or limits to threat of violence)
    • Approaching or blocking a person while carrying a weapon open or concealed or an imitation of a weapon in order to intimidate through fear.
  • Aggravated – more serious in nature which requires a more severe penalty. Considerations for increasing assault are:
    • Assault to first responder – police, fire fighters, emergency medical technicians, etc.
    • Victim is pregnant
    • Victim is a member of school staff
  • Sexual Assault
    • Simple sexual assault – forcing a victim to engage in any sexual act without explicit consent
    • Sexual assault with a weapon – threatening use of a weapon during the assault
    • Aggravated sexual assault – results when the victim is seriously injured during sexual assault
      • Wounds
      • Maims
      • Beaten brutally
      • Risk of death from injuries

Misdemeanor Assault in North Carolina

In North Carolina there are 3 types of assault and battery crimes listed under the misdemeanor status.

Misdemeanor assault charges in North Carolina are:

  1. Assault and Battery – physical injury of another person
  2. Assault on a Female– committed by a male 18 years or older
  3. Public Fighting – this charge stems from the result of causing bystanders to become fearful of their safety

North Carolina Felony Assault

Assault with a deadly weapon – committed with the intent to kill or cause serious bodily injury.

  • What is a deadly weapon?
    • Guns
    • Knives
    • Blunt weapons (baseball bats, hammers, pipes, etc.)
    • Any object that can be used as a weapon to kill

Chapter 14- Article 8 of the North Carolina General Assembly clearly defines the acts that will be charged under felonious assault.

2 Levels of Assault with Deadly Weapon in North Carolina

Serious Injury – an injury that potentially requires medical attention. The injury may not require attention by medical personnel, but if the possibility exists, then the charge is defined as serious.

Intent to Kill – the details surrounding this charge point to the conclusion that the goal of the aggressor was to kill the victim. Verbal and written threats will contribute to the charge.

What is the Difference between Battery and Assault?

This can be tricky, but a simple rule of thumb is any direct, physical contact is considered battery. Simply verbalizing or acting in a threatening manner will be deemed assault.

  • Assault and Battery – Battery is the actual physical contact on another person.
  • Verbal and No touch – crime is not considered battery just assault.

Can You Go to Jail for Assault?

Absolutely! Even a  simple assault can carry a maximum jail sentence of 30 days.

Can Simple Assault Charges be Dropped?

In many types of criminal cases a victim of a crime can request for charges to be dropped and the offender can avoid penalties. In the case of assault, the charges are brought forth by the “State” prosecution. Due to this, a victim of assault will not have the ability to drop the charges. It will be up to the prosecution to determine if a plea deal will be offered.

Can an Assault Charge Affect My Employment Status?

That depends.

First, are you seeking employment from a job that requires extensive background checks? Are you applying for a job prior to conviction?

Basically, the type of job you are seeking, in addition to your overall qualifications, the employers hiring requirements, and your competition for the job are contributing factors to your employment success.

If you are not convicted, and are in the hiring process of a job, then legally, the assault charge should not be considered. After conviction, this point is moot. Any employer that disqualifies potential staff based on criminal convictions would, in all likelihood, move on to the next qualified candidate. Remember, ANY criminal conviction will typically have a negative impact on hiring status.

If You are Witness to an Assault Should You Report It?

There are no legal requirements to report or stop a crime, especially if doing so will also place yourself in danger.

There are mandatory reporting requirements such as the duty to protect children from abuse and employment related obligations, but aside from those examples, the general public is not required to stop or report crimes.

Do I Need a Lawyer for an Assault Charge?

As a general rule, any time that you are charged with a crime or receive a subpoena, contacting a Raleigh criminal lawyer is a must. The laws can be very confusing, and representing yourself is never a good idea. A good criminal lawyer can help you get your charges reduced or possibly even dropped altogether if the attorney has been given enough time and information to put together a compelling defense.

Types of Defense for North Carolina Assault Cases

Self Defense – considered an “affirmative defense” as the defendant acknowledges the event occurred, but only did so in response to self preservation. For self defense to exist, the defendant must prove the defense was necessary, they were not the aggressor and the use of force was proportionate to the situation.

Alibi – the alibi defense is used to show the defendant could not commit the crime in question because they were not present or there are witnesses to testify the event did not occur.

Consent – the “victim” approved of the action prior to the act.

Consent must meet the following criteria:

  1. the act does not exceed the level on consent the party giving consent intended
  2. party/victim voluntarily engaged in the activity in which the defendant has been charged
  3. party giving consent must be legally capable of doing so (mental impairment, age restrictions, etc.)

*No intent is necessary to be proven if a victim does not consent to sexual activity. The result is automatically regarded as a sexual assault.

Schedule a Consultation with a Raleigh Criminal Lawyer about Your Assault Case

If you have been charged in an assault related crime, then our Raleigh criminal attorneys are ready to serve you. Since 1957, the criminal law team at Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas, LLP have helped individuals wrongly accused of assault and other violent crimes.

If you have been falsely charged with assault, assault with a deadly weapon or sexual assault, then our Raleigh criminal lawyers are only a call away. You can schedule a consultation with a Raleigh criminal attorney by calling 919-615-2473 or completing the online contact form below.

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