In most jurisdictions, no. Simple assault is often listed as a separate offense from battery. Assault is usually defined as a failed attempt at a battery or as placing a victim in fear of an immediate battery. It may also be defined as the intentional creation of a reasonable apprehension of bodily harm.
This means that the defendant intended to make the victim perceive that an immediate bodily harm was going to be inflicted upon them. For example, if a defendant holds a deadly weapon and points it at the victim in such a manner that causes the victim to believe they are about to be harmed.
The victim’s apprehension of the impending harm that creates a sense of immediate danger is one of the key elements of assault. The apprehension of an event that will occur at a later date or time is not an assault.
A common definition of battery is the application of an offensive touching or force perpetrated on the victim without their consent. That force may or may not have caused injury to the victim. It is important to note that any physical contact does not have to be intentional.
Both assault and battery are offenses that are prohibited by criminal law. The criminal law definition of assault is the act of intentionally placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent bodily harm or offensive contact.
What is considered assault may vary by jurisdiction. Examples of assault may include:
- Attempting to spit on another person;
- An individual pretending to hit, punch, or kick another individual;
- Brandishing a weapon in such a way that suggests the individual will be hit with that object; and
- Pointing a gun at another person, regardless of whether or not it is loaded.
Many jurisdictions treat assault and battery as totally separate offenses. Battery is the unlawful application of force to another person that results in bodily injury or offensive contact.
One of the main differences between the two offenses is the contact or lack thereof. A battery involves actual physical contact, whereas an assault may not involve actual contact but causes the victim to perceive they are in danger of imminent harm, even if no physical harm occurs.
For example, suppose an individual throws a baseball at another individual with only the intent of scaring them. If the baseball hit the individual in the face, the person who threw it could face criminal battery charges.
Assault and battery are both taken very seriously by the criminal justice system. If an individual is convicted of one of these offenses, they may be sentenced to jail or prison or be required to pay criminal fines.
Although assault and battery are separate offenses in many jurisdictions, some have merged the two into one offense, bringing about the well-known phrase, assault and battery. In addition, some states will consider aggravating circumstances for both the charging and sentencing of these offenses to ensure that the punishment fits the extent of the crime committed.
Most states have statutes that elevate assault and battery charges and their corresponding punishments when certain extraordinary circumstances exist. If such conditions are present, a defendant may be charged with the more serious crimes of aggravated assault or battery.
Circumstances that may result in a charge of aggravated assault or battery include:
- If the defendant used a weapon during the assault, such as a gun;
- If the victim is legally considered a vulnerable person, which includes children, pregnant women, and elderly individuals; and
- If the victim sustained severe harm or a serious and long-lasting injury as a result of the incident.
When these circumstances are present, a prosecutor may consider raising the charges. If the victim dies from their injuries, the defendant may be charged with manslaughter or murder.
What is North Carolina’s Simple Assault Law?
The assault law in North Carolina is not a traditional one. In the North Carolina criminal statute, assault is listed alongside battery and simple affray. All three crimes are punished in the same manner.
North Carolina has three types of misdemeanor assault and battery crimes, which include:
- Assault and battery, when an individual physically injures another;
- Assault, when an individual attempts to commit an assault and battery, or behaves in a manner that indicates an assault and battery is imminent; and
- An affray, which is a fight between two or more individuals in a public place that is likely to frighten others.
An individual can, however, be charged with only simple assault instead of being charged with simple assault and battery. In North Carolina, simple assault is usually charged as a Class 2 misdemeanor.
A misdemeanor is an offense that is more serious than a citation but less serious than a felony offense. The category includes less serious to moderately serious offenses that are associated with less serious punishments. In most states, a misdemeanor sentence has a maximum of one year in a county jail facility.
Does Simple Assault Involve Violence?
No, in North Carolina, simple assault does not include violence. It is the least serious assault offense with which an individual may be charged. Simple assault does not include any aggravating factors such as violence or the use of a deadly weapon.
What is the Punishment for Simple Assault Charges in North Carolina?
As previously noted, simple assault is typically charged as a Class 2 misdemeanor in North Carolina. If convicted, a defendant may face up to 30 days in jail or community punishment, and a fine of up to $1,000.
If the individual has 1 to 4 prior convictions, for a first time simple assault charge in North Carolina, they may face up to 45 days of community punishment or intermediate punishment. Any individual with 5 or more convictions may receive up to 60 days of active punishment, intermediate punishment, or community punishment.
An average bond amount for simple assault is $500. This amount may vary, of course, by location and bonding company used.
What are Active, Intermediate, and Community Punishment in North Carolina?
There are three different categories of punishment in North Carolina. These include:
- Intermediate; and
Active punishment for a misdemeanor conviction is a jail sentence. Intermediate punishment may include jail time but typically consists of supervised probation and may also include:
- Home incarceration, or house arrest, and/or satellite-based monitoring;
- Enrolling in a drug treatment court program;
- Community service; and
- Substance abuse assessment, monitoring, or treatment.
Community punishment is the least severe form of punishment in North Carolina. It usually includes a fine and the possibility of supervised or unsupervised probation. It may also include:
- House arrest;
- A period of confinement in a local facility;
- Community service;
- Satellite-based monitoring; and
- Substance abuse treatment, assessment, or monitoring.
Do I Need a North Carolina Lawyer for Simple Assault Charge?
Yes, it is essential to have the assistance of an experienced North Carolina criminal lawyer when you are facing simple assault charges. Although, in some cases, the state may appoint an attorney to represent you, it is best to hire your own counsel with whom you are comfortable.
Your attorney can review your case, advise you of your rights, and represent you during any court proceedings. Your lawyer may also be able to help negotiate a plea bargain, if available in your case.