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When does a simple quarrel border into assault?

On Behalf of | Mar 15, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

It’s not unusual for a simple disagreement to escalate into a fight. Sometimes, a fight like this can end peacefully without physical contact. But other times, it becomes hostile and gets physical. When hostility escalates and physical actions are involved, such a fight can border into assault.

In North Carolina, there are consequences for this, as assault is a punishable crime.

Understanding an assault charge

A disagreement can become an assault when someone’s actions instill fear in another person. This fear isn’t just a vague sense of unease. It’s a real worry about physical harm, injury or offensive contact. Under state laws, a person who commits a simple assault or participates in a simple affray is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor.

“Affray” means a public fight or disturbance that alarms others. This could include actions like an attempted punch that induces fear of being hit or actual physical contact such as hitting or pushing someone or causing a public ruckus.

The law classifies these actions as assault, with potential penalties including fines, community service or even jail time.

Conditions for more severe consequences

The law also specifies situations that make an assault charge more severe. For instance, an assault is a class A1 misdemeanor—a more serious charge—if the assault inflicts serious injury or involves a deadly weapon. Also, if the victim is a female, a child under the age of 12 years or a public official, the individual charged with assault may face harsher penalties. This includes higher fines, longer community service hours or extended jail time.

So, a fight can become a serious assault if someone, out of anger or frustration, inflicts serious injury, uses a deadly weapon or assaults a female, a child under 12, or a public official.

Enlisting the help of legal counsel

Acting on impulse to punch someone or instilling fear can have serious consequences. So, anyone facing these charges should consider seeking an attorney. An attorney can protect and represent the individual’s rights in court proceedings, providing a crucial support system during a challenging time.