Understanding Domestic Assault
Being accused of domestic battery or assault is a serious charge that can negatively impact your entire life. In North Carolina, the terms assault and battery are often used interchangeably, though assault can include the credible threat of violence whereas battery itself is a charge given when physical contact occurs, generally causing injury. This is a broad scope that can cover anything from pushing someone down to injuring someone with a weapon.
Thus, domestic assault is generally described as causing physical injury to someone with whom you are in a relationship or someone with whom you live. This could include:
- A spouse
- Current or former romantic partner or fiancé(e)
- Children, though typically adult children. Injury to a minor child would generally fall under child abuse
- Siblings, parents, or other family members
In North Carolina, there are not specifically designated domestic violence charges. This means that instead of being charged with domestic assault, the accused will simply be charged with a type of physical assault. However, if there is a personal relationship between the defendant and the victim, a judge can impose additional punishments or special terms.
Criminal Charges Related to Domestic Assault
When faced with allegations or accusations of injuring someone in your family or in your home, you will need a criminal defense attorney who can defend you effectively against whichever battery charge you are facing.
Misdemeanor Assault & Battery
Simple assault and battery in North Carolina is the charge when someone is accused of causing a minor injury. This is a Class 2 misdemeanor that can carry 60 days in jail and is the least severe battery charge.
When the victim is a child under 12, a person with disabilities, or a woman over 18 when the accused is an adult male, a simple assault and battery charge becomes a Class A1 misdemeanor which carries a penalty of up to 150 days in jail.
Felony Assault & Battery
While most cases of domestic assault are charged as misdemeanors, certain situations may lead to a felony charge or convicted, including accusations of:
- Injuring a person with disabilities is a Class F felony that is punishable by up to three years, five months in prison.
- Causing serious bodily injury, including chronic health complications or a life-threatening injury is a Class F felony
- Showing an intent to kill the victim using a deadly weapon (almost anything can become a deadly weapon depending on the manner in which it was used and the injuries inflicted ) is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
- Or an assault by strangulation
Because accusations can come with such a severe criminal penalty, it’s essential to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who will fight on your behalf.
Additionally, as we mentioned above, when a judge determines there is a personal relationship between the alleged victim and the defendant, he or she may add additional terms to the punishment or probation, including:
- Psychiatric treatment or counseling
- Anger management or counseling
- Drug or alcohol rehab
- No contact with the alleged victim
Civil Penalties Related to Domestic Assault & Battery
While the criminal court system does not specifically recognize domestic violence separately from other crimes, domestic crimes can lead to civil court orders that can negatively affect your life. These actions can include:
- A protective order, also called a “restraining order,” which can prevent you from accessing your belongings or seeing your children.
- Removing custody or ending visitation of your children.
- Civil lawsuits in which the alleged victim may attempt to recover medical expenses or claim pain and suffering.
- A prohibition under Federal Law from possession of a gun.
Why You Need a Domestic Violence Attorney
Crimes of domestic violence not only come with heavy criminal and civil penalties, the long-term damage is severe. Being convicted of assault and battery, especially in a domestic violence situation, can follow you around for the rest of your life, affecting your ability to find work, rent apartments, or get assistance.
That’s why you need to work with a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in domestic violence cases as soon as you are accused or charged with the crime. At Sandman, Finn, & Fitzhugh, we bring over 60 years of combined legal experience to our clients. In addition to experience in criminal defense, we also worked as criminal prosecutors, so we have a unique perspective and insight, giving us the ability to better serve our clients. We can work to provide you with the counsel to make the right decisions as well as fight on your behalf with a comprehensive legal defense strategy.