Simple assault in North Dakota, a misdemeanor, is the intentional infliction of injury to another person. Various circumstances, such as the defendant’s mindset, whether a weapon was used, and what type of injury the victim sustained determine the severity of the punishment.
North Dakota also recognizes an offense called “aggravated assault,” a felony, which is an assault that causes or could have caused serious injury. Simple assault against certain victims, such as police officers, is punished as aggravated assault. If you are looking for information on aggravated assault, please see "Aggravated Assault in North Dakota".
Willfully Causing Injury
Simple assault occurs when you “willfully” cause “bodily injury” or “serious bodily injury” to another person. Willful conduct is an act that’s done intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly. When people act recklessly, they do so with a clear disregard of the consequences. For example, it would be reckless to ride a mountain bike at full speed down a narrow trail with blind spots.
North Dakota differentiates between “bodily injury” and “substantial bodily injury,” punishing the latter more severely, as explained below.
- Bodily injury is any impairment, including physical pain.
- Substantial bodily injury is any significant but temporary impairment, loss, or disfigurement.
(N.D. Code Ann. §§ 12.1-01-04, 12.1-02-02, 12.1-17-01.1.)
Negligently Causing Injury With a Firearm or Deadly Weapon
Simple assault also occurs when you negligently, or carelessly, cause any injury to another person’s body with a firearm or other deadly weapon. When a person acts carelessly, he does so without regard to the likely consequences—an awareness that a reasonable person using ordinary caution would have.
A deadly weapon includes guns and bombs and any other weapon that could cause death or serious injury.
(N.D. Code Ann. §§ 12.1-02-02, 12.1-17-01.)
Simple assault that involves mere “bodily injury” is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail, or a fine of $1,000, or both.
When “substantial bodily injury” has been proved, however, and the victim is twelve years old or older, the crime is a Class A misdemeanor. A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
(N.D. Code Ann. §§ 12.1-17-01, 12.1-32-01.)
North Dakota singles out assaults that occur in a domestic setting. When the victim is someone in the defendant’s family or someone living in the same home as the defendant, simple assault is a Class B misdemeanor if it is a first offense, punishable by up to 30 days in jail, or a fine of $1,000, or both.
However, if the defendant has a prior conviction for assault against a family member, any subsequent assault is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
“Family member” is broadly defined to include spouses, former spouses, parents, children, people related by blood or marriage, people who live together, and people who are in a dating relationship.
(N.D. Code Ann. §§ 12.1-17-01, 14-07.1-01.)
For more information on domestic violence laws in North Dakota, see "Domestic Violence in North Dakota".
Getting Legal Advice and Representation
A conviction for simple assault can result in jail time, as well as a significant fine. Because of these serious consequences, you’ll want the best possible outcome, which could be a dismissal of the charges, reduced charges, a plea bargain to reduced charges, or an outright acquittal at trial.
The best way to achieve a good result is to work with an experienced attorney who is familiar not only with the law, but with how the prosecutors and judges involved in your case will likely handle it. Some prosecutors will readily plead a case, some will stubbornly go to trial; some judges are lenient at sentencing time, others are harsh. And if your case involves tricky issues of law, you’ll need the help of a professional who knows how to present the best arguments on your behalf. A good attorney can help you understand your options and assist you in preparing the best defense possible.