An accusation of assault can be scary because the nature of the charges and the extent of the penalties can vary widely and become severe. A defendant could face hundreds of dollars in fines and years in prison.
North Carolina courts distinguish simple from aggravated assault by considering the possible outcome of an altercation and who the participants are.
The type of attack
A simple assault involves unlawfully touching or threatening someone with bodily harm. In such instances, the person under a supposed attack must believe the accused can immediately carry out the threat. An attack on someone with the intent to kill also brings an aggravated assault charge.
If a person commits an unlawful attack and has a weapon or other means to cause serious bodily harm, the act can rise to aggravated assault. Serious bodily injury refers to damage that brings a considerable threat of death or severe long-term consequences, such as permanent disfigurement, coma, chronic pain or prolonged hospitalization.
An attack on a protected class
Specific individuals are part of protected groups. If someone physically assaults a member of one of these classes, the charges could automatically rise to aggravated assault. These groups include:
- Pregnant women
- Employees or volunteers of public schools
- People with physical or cognitive disabilities
- State officers or employees
An aggravated assault charge can be a misdemeanor or a felony. In both cases, the offense remains on one’s criminal record and can affect employment, schooling, government benefits or child custody.
After a dispute, a participant may claim the other party committed an act of aggravated assault. Understanding state statutes and establishing the facts about the circumstances and intent can make a difference for a defendant.