North Carolina Assault and Battery Laws

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North Carolina recognizes three types of misdemeanor assault and battery crimes:

  • assault and battery, which involves physically injuring someone else
  • assault, which is the attempt to commit an assault and battery, or a show of force indicating that an assault and battery is imminent, and
  • affray, a fight between two or more people in a public place, likely to frighten others.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 14-32 and 14-33.)

This article will explain the different kinds of misdemeanor offenses. For information on felony assault, see Assault with a Deadly Weapon in North Carolina.

“Simple” Assault, Assault & Battery, and Affray

Most of the time, assault and battery, assault, and affray are charged as Class 2 misdemeanors. In these situations, the victim has suffered minor injury only (of a type that would not require a doctor's attention). When the defendant has no prior convictions, a Class 2 misdemeanor is punishable by probation and a sentence of one to 30 days in jail. If the defendant has prior convictions, the sentence can be as long as 60 days. The judge can also impose a fine of up to $1,000.

However, North Carolina punishes some offenses more severely in several situations, described next.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 14-33.)

More Serious Assaults, Assaults and Batteries, and Affrays

When the offense involves specific weapons, injuries, or certain victims, North Carolina imposes more severe penalties. The following offenses are Class A1 and Class 1 misdemeanors. Penalties are explained below.

Serious injury

An assault that inflicts serious injury is a Class A1 misdemeanor. A serious injury, while not defined in the statute, is any injury that could require medical attention. Usually, the victim is not required to actually seek or receive medical care; it is enough that the injury is of the sort that could require a doctor’s attention.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 14-33.)

Using a deadly weapon

An assault that involves a deadly weapon is also a Class A1 misdemeanor. A deadly weapon, while not defined in the statute, is any object that could be used to kill someone. Any item that is not normally thought of as a weapon but that is actually used in the offense is a deadly weapon, as are guns, knives, and blunt objects.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 14-33.)

Domestic violence

Domestic violence, another Class A1 assault and battery misdemeanor, is an assault with a deadly weapon or one that causes serious injury against someone with whom the defendant has a “personal relationship,” when the assault occurs in the presence of a minor child. The minor must have been in a position to observe the assault.

“Personal relationship” is broadly defined to include spouses, children, grandchildren, former spouses, people who have lived together as a family, and people who have dated one another or who have children together. The minor child must be under the age of 18, must live with or be under the care of the defendant, and must have a personal relationship with the defendant.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 14-33, 50B-1.)

Sexual battery

Sexual battery, a Class A1 misdemeanor, is any sexual contact or physical contact committed for sexual purposes by force and against the victim’s will. Sexual battery is also any sexual contact with a victim who is mentally disabled, physically helpless, or otherwise incapacitated, where the defendant knows or should know of the victim’s disability.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 14-27.5A.)

Offenses against particular victims

When the following victims are involved, the offense is elevated from “simple” status to one meriting punishment as a Class A1 misdemeanor:

  • women (when the defendant is male and over the age of 18) and children under the age of 12
  • state employees or officers, public transit operators, and campus or private security officers, but only if the assault occurs while the victims are acting in their official or employment capacity, and
  • a public, private, or charter school employee or volunteer who is on school property, during a school event, or in the course of transporting children to or from school.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 14-33.)

Sports officials

Assaulting a sports official during a game is a Class 1 misdemeanor. A “sports official” includes referees, umpires, and coaches. A game is any officially organized sporting event, everything from Little League to professional sports.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 14-33.)

Punishment for Class A1 and Class 1 Misdemeanors

Class A1. A Class A1 misdemeanor is punishable by probation, supervised probation, or a jail sentence of one to 60 days. The judge may also impose a fine, whose amount is at the judge’s discretion. If the defendant has prior convictions, the sentence can be up to 150 days in prison.

Defendants convicted of domestic violence face additional consequences. On the first offense, if the defendant is sentenced to probation, probation must be supervised. For second and subsequent offenses, the defendant must be sentenced to at least 30 days in jail.

Class 1. A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by probation and one to 45 days in jail. The sentence can be as great as 120 days in jail if the defendant has prior convictions. A fine may also be imposed; the amount of the fine is at the court’s discretion.

The punishment provisions for Class A1 and Class 1 misdemeanors caution that defendants may receive different punishments if other provisions of North Carolina law also cover the conduct involved.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 15A-1340.23.)

Getting Legal Advice and Representation

Depending on the facts of your case, an assault conviction could result in probation or even time in jail. Judges have some discretion in sentencing, and a local attorney will be able to tell you how your case is likely to be treated. If you are charged with assault, you should consult with a North Carolina criminal defense attorney who can evaluate your case and help you prepare a strong defense.

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