Understanding Simple Assault vs. Aggravated Assault in North Carolina

You may think that simple assault and aggravated assault are the same, but in North Carolina, these two assaults are slightly different. Depending on the specific situation, you can be charged based on a wide range. Assault in North Carolina is a complicated charge with a variety of variables that can result in a person being charged with either a misdemeanor or felony and that dictates the kind of penalty that occurs if you are found guilty.

What is a simple assault, an aggravated assault, and what are the differences between the two? At Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh, our Raleigh criminal lawyers have experience in all types of assaults. In this article, we will define both kinds of assaults, their differences, and the penalties associated with them.

Difference Between Simple Assault and Aggravated Assault

The biggest difference between simple assaults and aggravated assaults is that simple assaults are classified as misdemeanors and aggravated assaults are classified as felonies. Of course, as misdemeanors, simple assaults carry small fines and little to no jail time. As felonies, aggravated assaults may be punished with heavy fines and lengthy prison sentences. Additionally, aggravated assault being a felony can affect a person’s life forever by ruining chances for jobs, the right to vote, being able to purchase firearms, and possibly traveling outside the country.

Simple Assault

General Statute 14-33(a) defines simple assault as unlawfully assaulting another individual, although the term assault is not explicitly defined. Due to the lack of definition in the statute, assault is characterized by the conventional Common Law offense of assault. Simple assault is the least serious assault offense. It can include unlawfully touching someone or threatening someone with bodily harm when it appears that you have the immediate capacity to carry out your threat. Simple assault is a Class 2 misdemeanor. When you have no prior convictions, the sentence could involve probation or up to 30 days in jail. If you have been convicted of the same offense in the past, the judge could sentence you to 60 days in jail and you could be required to pay a fine of up to $1,000.

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is defined in North Carolina by the State Bureau of Investigation as “an unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe bodily injury usually accompanied by the use of a weapon or other means likely to produce death or serious bodily harm.” In other words, this means injuring someone or attempting to injure someone with a deadly weapon, such as a gun or knife or another object. It also includes hitting someone with your fists or headbutting them and causing serious injury.

Potential Penalties for Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is punished more severely than simple assault.

  • Aggravated assault resulting in serious bodily injury is a Class A misdemeanor that can result in up to 120 days in jail.
  • Aggravated assault on a disabled individual is a Class F felony and punishable by 10 to 41 months in prison.
  • Assault with a deadly weapon in which serious bodily injury occurs is a Class E felony and punishable by 15 to 63 months in prison.
  • Assault with a deadly weapon in which an attempt to kill can be proven and serious injury occurs is punished as a Class C felony and punishable by 44 to 182 months in prison.

Common Defenses to Assault Charges

Violence is frowned upon legally and socially, however, it is still possible to defend an assault charge. Here are some of the common defenses used against simple assault charges.

Acting in Self-Defense

Self-defense is the use of force that is reasonably necessary to defend oneself from harm or injury. In North Carolina, it is lawful to use self-defense to protect yourself against assault.

Protecting Others

If there is a legal justification, cause, or excuse, you are allowed to defend others. The amount of force that is used to defend others must be appropriate and not excessive.

Defending One’s Property

In North Carolina, you have the right to defend and protect your property. In doing so, only the use of reasonable force is permitted.

The Alleged Victim Consented to the Act

There can be a situation where the alleged victim voluntarily consents to an act that would be considered a simple assault involving physical contact. In such an instance the defense can use that consent to argue against the charges.

Contact Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh Criminal Attorneys in Raleigh

If you have been arrested and charged with an assault, either simple or aggravated, call our assault crime attorneys in Raleigh. Our team of experienced criminal attorneys understand the law and know how to defend you. We work diligently to fight for your rights and get the best outcome possible. Contact us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for a free consultation by calling (919) 845-6688 or completing the contact form to speak to one of our attorneys today.