An assault can be an unlawful touching, or it can be an act in which the victim is never touched, but is put in imminent fear of being touched. A touch is a general word, meant to describe everything from a slap to a strike with a bat, to worse.
In North Carolina, there are dozens of different kinds of assaults. Some are misdemeanor assaults; the lowest is a Class 2 misdemeanor for which there can be a variety of punishments depending on someone’s criminal history.
Others are very serious felonies, including the most serious assault, Assault With a Deadly Weapon With Intent to Kill Inflicting Serious Injury (AWDWIKISI), which is a Class C felony, with a minimum sentence of 44 months (bottom of the mitigated range for a person with no prior convictions). Attempted First Degree Murder is arguably an assault, but is handled under homicides.
In general, assault is not defined in the statutes, but by North Carolina’s courts. The statutes merely establish the punishment once an assault has been proven. (See N.C.G.S 14-33 for Misdemeanor Assault punishments.)
North Carolina recognizes two forms of assault. The first form of assault is an act or attempted act or an appearance of an attempt to immediately physically injure another person. An assault may either be a touching, or an attempt to touch another person. If the defendant has attempted to unlawfully touch another person, but has missed, the defendant has committed an assault.
The second form of assault is a show of violence. In the first form of assault, the state must prove that the defendant intended to commit an unlawful touching. In the second form of assault, the prosecutor merely needs to prove that the show of violence caused apprehension or fear in the victim. For example, if a defendant points a gun at a victim, and the defendant does not intend to commit an assault, maybe the defendant thinks it’s a joke, but the victim has a reasonable apprehension as a result of seeing the gun, the victim has been assaulted under North Carolina law.
Now that we’ve got the general definition of assault handled, let’s look at a few different types of common assaults in North Carolina.
A simple assault is the most basic assault, and is a class 2 misdemeanor. (Misdemeanors are broken into four classes, from A1, the worst, to Class 3, the least serious.) Someone who commits an unlawful touching of another, or who engages in a “show of violence” (raises a hand, but does not hit), is guilty of a simple assault.
North Carolina has a series of aggravating factors that raise the seriousness of the offense from a Class 2 misdemeanor to a Class 1 or Class A1 misdemeanor. For instance, committing an assault against a sports official at a sports event is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If a man, 18 years of age or older, assaults a female, he is guilty of a Class A1 misdemeanor, which is the most serious misdemeanor class. A person who assaults a child under the age of 12 years old is also guilty of a Class A1 misdemeanor. N.C.G.S. 14-33 has other specific aggravating factors.
An assault inflicting serious injury (also defined under N.C.G.S. 14-33) is a class A1 misdemeanor. The injury that the victim suffers can either be a physical injury (causing “great pain” and “suffering”) or can be a “serious mental injury.” The judge or jury ultimately decides whether the injury is serious, and can look to whether the victim was hospitalized, experienced pain, suffered blood loss, or was out of work for a time. Courts have found that a victim who suffered from shards of glass in in the arm had experienced serious injury.
An assault with a deadly weapon is a Class A1 misdemeanor as defined under N.C.G.S. 14-33. A deadly weapon can include a gun, or belt used on a child, a box cutter, and a broken wine bottle. Even hands, fists, and feet may be considered deadly weapons depending on how they have been used and the relative size of the attacker in relationship to the victim. Note that an “assault with a deadly weapon,” a Class A1 misdemeanor, is different from an “assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.” The second crime includes “intent to kill” and is a Class E felony. The same act may – pointing a gun at someone – may be either a Misdemeanor, if there is no intent to kill. But that act will probably be charged as the much more serious “Intent to Kill” Class E felony, especially if the attacker threatens to kill the victim.
We now turn to more serious assaults. These are felonies, with much harsher penalties than misdemeanor crimes.
An assault inflicting serious bodily injury is a Class F felony. This is an assault that causes more than serious injury. For instance, a victim who suffered a broken jaw from an assault and whose jaw was wired shut for two months causing him considerable suffering and several trips to the emergency room had suffered “serious bodily injury.”
An assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill is a Class E felony (N.C.G.S. 14-32); the “intent to kill” may be inferred from the circumstances of the assault. The attacker doesn’t need to say “I’m going to kill you” in order for a jury to convict the attacker of this felony. The jury can interpret the attacker’s actions and infer that the attacker did intend to kill.
An assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury (N.C.G.S. 14-32) is a Class E felony. It includes the assault, the deadly weapon, and the serious injury. Again, a deadly weapon can be a gun, or a bat, or even fists in the right circumstances.
An assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury is the most serious type of Class C felony. In many cases, the prosecutor could charge this as Attempted First Degree Murder (Class B2), if the prosecutor can prove that the attacker had the specific intent to kill the victim.
There are dozens of additional assaults on the books and in the case law. For instance, assaulting a police officer, court official, disabled person, or a prison guard are all each different types of assaults that carry different penalties. Discharging a weapon into an occupied property is also a type of an assault. The list goes on and on.
If you have been accused of an assault, make sure that you hire an attorney. An assault conviction – even a misdemeanor conviction – is a very serious mark on your record, and could preclude certain types of employment.
Call (919) 352-9411 for a free phone consultation with an attorney.