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What is an Assault?

Updated on December 4, 2016

Assault is an intentional act threatening bodily harm to another person, coupled with ability or apparent ability to do such harm, but falling short of physical contact. If one raises his fist or a cane to strike, or swings and misses, and the requisite intent and ability are present, assault is committed. An aggravated assault is an assault with intent to commit some additional crime, or a particularly outrageous one, such as assault with a deadly weapon. Where force is actually applied by the aggressor to the victim, a battery occurs; hence the common term assault and battery.

Intent either to harm or to cause apprehension of danger may be a basis of assault. The court looks to the aggressor's conduct and attending circumstances and considers how they would appear to the victim. For example, when one points a gun in a threatening manner, it is assault, although the assaulter may know the gun is unloaded. The act is reasonably calculated to create in the victim apprehension of immediate harm, in spite of the assaulter's inability to do harm in the manner threatened. Mere abusive language without threatening action is not assault. Thus, threats over the telephone, even at short range, do not constitute assault, since there is no present and immediate danger.

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