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What is Simple Assault?
Everything You Need to Know

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Collen Clark Published by Collen Clark

Schmidt & Clark, LLP is not currently accepting these types of cases and has posted this content for information purposes only. We encourage you to seek a qualified attorney, if you feel you might have a case.

A physical fight with another person is a crime, and some cases of simple assault may result in heavier penalties than others. In certain circumstances, it's enough to merely threaten the victim with causing bodily harm or actual injury for it to be considered illegal.

We had the chance to work on several assault cases, which gave us a clear understanding of what we need to look for when dealing with these types of cases.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • People sometimes confuse simple assault and aggravated assault. They are similar, but aggravated assault is a more serious crime
  • Simple assault cases are classified as a crime dealt with by the state
  • There is no one set punishment for assault cases. Judges look at each case to decide on a penalty

Definition of Simple Assault

A man about to punch a woman

It is generally defined as an intentional, unlawful threat by word or acts to do violence to another person, coupled with an apparent ability to carry out the threat, and which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that violence is imminent [1].

Examples of Simple Assault

Someone about to hurt a womanThere are many different scenarios in which a simple assault can take place. In our experience, some of the most common scenarios include:

  • Fighting or brawling with another person, whether on purpose or by accident.
  • Intentionally causing a physical injury to another person, such as hitting, shoving, or kicking.
  • Attempting to physically harm another person with or without a deadly weapon, even if the attempt is unsuccessful.

Difference Between Simple Assault and Other Crimes

People often confuse other crimes with simple assault, but there are some key differences between them.

Here are some of the most common crimes that people mistake for simple assault:

  • Battery: This crime involves physical contact and harm to the alleged victim, such as punching or kicking them [2].
  • Aggravated assault: This is a more serious crime than simple assault, and it is generally defined as an assault that results in serious bodily injury to the victim [3].
  • Domestic violence: This is a type of assault that occurs between family members or people in a romantic relationship [4].

Related Article: Domestic Violence and Domestic Abuse Differences

3 Characteristics of Simple Assault Cases

A lawyer looking at a book

In order to convict someone of simple assault, the prosecution must prove that the defendant committed the crime intentionally and caused harm to the victim. The prosecutor must prove that certain elements occurred [5].

  1. Intention: The defendant must have threatened another person and made them afraid that the defendant would physically harm them. The attacker can do this harm by making gestures or saying words, but it must clarify that the victim is in danger.
  2. Reasonable Apprehension: The victim must genuinely believe that they face significant risk and are an imminent threat. It is thought that serious damage will probably occur.
  3. Harm: In order, for someone to be convicted of assault, there must be some form of harm to the victim. This can be through actual touching through physical threat or physical harm, but it is not required to involve actual physical contact. The emotional harm from a violent verbal threat can be enough.

Related Article: Can You Go to Jail for Threatening Someone?

What is the Penalty for Simple Assault?

The penalty for simple assault can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case and the state laws, including jail time, fines, revocation of a weapons license, probation, and a mandatory anger management course [6]. 

Some common factors that may influence the penalty include:

  • The first offense is without prior criminal charges, based on the criminal record.
  • Whether or not the victim suffered actual harm.
  • Whether the attacker used any deadly weapons in committing the assault or in related crimes.

However, a defendant can face harsher penalties for assaulting someone vulnerable (a child or disabled or older adult) or working to help the community (police officers or emergency medical care providers).

Related Articles: 6 Types of Assault Charges

How to Beat a Simple Assault Charge?

Someone writing on a clipboard while a lawyer points at it

To beat a simple assault charge, a criminal defense lawyer may use many defenses to defend their client against a simple assault conviction such as self-defense, mistaken identity, intoxication, consent, and more.

Based on our experience, the following are the most typical defenses that a defense attorney might use to try to avoid a conviction and misdemeanor assault consequences:

  • Self-Defense: The most common way to defend yourself is to argue that you were a reasonable person acting in a threatening manner. Therefore, you reacted out of self-defense to protect yourself or someone else from harm.

Related Article: Castle Doctrine Explained

"Security has to be habitual. If you allow yourself to get into a lax way of thinking when it pertains to your security, it is very difficult to change that pattern when you find yourself [in not-so-safe situations]."- Larry Jordan, a former member of the U.S. Army Rangers and Special Forces.

  • Mistaken Identity: As defense attorneys, we may provide evidence that the defendant's identity was mistaken, and they are not to blame for committing the offense. Based on previous cases, this is a viable argument depending on the facts presented, whether any witnesses exist, whether the crime is recorded in the video and other factors.
  • Accidental Harm: The prosecutor needs to show that the person who committed the assault did it on purpose. If you can show that it was an accident, then you might not be convicted of a simple assault. 
  • Consent: If the victim agreed to fight the defendant, the judge could not punish the defendant for simple assault.
  • High Five Defense: Sometimes, people touch each other in ways that could be seen as threatening, but it was not an intentional act, and they didn't have any criminal intent.
  • Intoxication: If the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the assault, they might be able to use this as a defense.

Related Articles:


Is simple assault a felony or misdemeanor in N.C.?

In North Carolina, simple assault is a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors are punishable by a fine and/or up to 120 days in jail.

Related Article: Felonious Assault Definition

Is a slap considered assault?

Yes, a slap can be considered assault. It all depends on the circumstances under which it occurred and what kind of injuries the victim experienced.

The Bottom Line

If you've been charged with simple assault, it's essential to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can help you navigate the legal process and protect your rights.

At Schmidt & Clark, LLP law firm, we have teams of criminal defense attorneys with years of experience in assault cases that will help you navigate the court process and have all assault charges dropped. We pay close attention to the attorney-client relationship and your privacy will be guaranteed.