What is Assault Law?

Assault Law deals with the consequences of the wrongful act of causing fear of physical contact with another person. It is treated as a crime and a tort, meaning offenders can be prosecuted by the government, sued for civil damages by the victim, or both. The purpose of assault law is to deter people from exhibiting aggressive, threatening behavior toward others, even if physical contact does not occur. If a connection does occur, the act is usually treated as a separate offense of battery.

No matter what you do, you could make a big legal mess. Some state criminal codes make assault a misdemeanor punishable by fines and up to one year in the county jail. Cases involving death threats or serious bodily harm are charged as "aggravated assault." The crime of aggravated assault is a felony, usually punishable by fines and a maximum of 10 to 20 years in prison. And in civil tort cases, the size of the monetary damage award will likewise escalate based on the seriousness of the defendant's conduct.

Elements of a Criminal Conviction

Although each state has laws regarding assault, most follow the same broad descriptions. For example, New York law provides that assault is the "intentional act which places another in imminent apprehension of physical injury."

This means that assault may be charged as a result of a variety of conduct, ranging from shoving a person, to hitting a building with your car, to throwing a punch at a crowded party.

The exact definition of assault varies from state to state. Other elements included in some states but not required in otherssuch as intent to cause fear, sudden passion, or consentmay play a role in an individual case.

That said, the intent (s)he had in his actions to convict, judges solely to determine the nature and appropriate punishment of the criminal, not the defendant's state of mind at the time an instrumentality is the cause of the criminal accident or how defendant came to possess the instrumentality.

The common law principle of men's rea means that criminal activity must be accompanied by an intent directed toward committing a crime. Consequently, it is considered highly inappropriate to believe that a defendant with no criminal intent could be found guilty of a criminal act.

Another element of criminal assault that commonly arises at trial is the "imminent bodily harm" requirement. Not only must the defendant intentionally cause the victim to fear harm, but the fear must be for a particular type of harm. To begin with, it must be bodily harm. Thus, threats to steal property or damage the victim's reputation will not qualify. The fear must also be of imminent harm. This means that threats to cause physical injury at a later time, no matter how menacing, cannot result in a conviction.

One defense attorney may raise more than one defendant in a criminal trial. Most defenses include the defendant's lack of criminal intent or knowledge to commit the crime in question. Other securities can consist of an alibi, that the defendant was insane or mentally incapacitated.

To prove an assault, a prosecutor must establish that the accused intentionally or recklessly caused physical injury to another person.

The defendant can avoid conviction by establishing an affirmative defense, which includes:
  1. The victim's consent to the activity;
  2. Intoxication or diminished capacity; and,
  3. Self-defense.

Civil remedies are available to the assault victim when the assault involves some form of fraud. Civil remedies, like a restraining order, are a way for victims to stay away from the person who harmed them.

An assault can be both a criminal charge and a civil action. However, you don't need to be convicted of assault to bring a civil action. In a civil case, plaintiffs do not have to meet the "beyond a reasonable doubt" burden of proof. Instead, they can only show the case by a "preponderance of the evidence."

An assault may occur, even in the absence of an element of direct, purposeful conduct, by indirect behavior. In some cases, the defendant must not engage in any natural conduct to be liable for assault.

The acts must be intentional, meaning that the defendant must have desired to cause physical contact with the victim. The communication need not have occurred, however. The intent could be accomplished by setting a trap, for example. Also, apparent jokes and harmless horseplay do not qualify as assault.

Even then, the person must initiate the contact. Thus, the tort of assault requires direct, purposeful conduct, which differs from a battery.

There are many different types of lawyers but hiring the right one is essentialyour lawyers should have the expertise you need.

The assistance of an experienced trial attorney can make a difference in an assault case. It is sometimes necessary to put the facts of an assault case--or an employer's allegations--to the test in court.