The term assault is often used to mean attack, as in “he assaulted me.” In many jurisdictions, however, a criminal assault is not actually an attack but rather the “threat” to attack somebody. The actual attack is known as a battery, and that is why the words are often used together: assault and battery.
When a person is charged with assault by itself, it generally means the person is being charged with threatening to cause serious bodily harm to another person. It can be deliberate or through an irresponsible action that shows a conscious lack of respect for a person’s safety.
For example, assume that Bill throws a brick a John’s head. John ducks just in time avoiding injury. Nick, standing behind John, unfortunately, gets whacked with the brick, sustaining serious injuries to his head. Police, on the scene, observe the entire incident and promptly arrest Bill. Will what crime or crimes would Bill be charged, assuming his conduct was intentional?
In this hypothetical, Bill would be charged with assault and battery. He would be charged with assault against John and battery against Nick. He would face assault charges against John because he threatened to cause serious bodily harm to John, with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm, and an intention to do so. (He actually harmed – battered – Nick. For more about the crime of battery, click on the subsection for the crime of battery).
Defenses to Criminal Assault
Not every charged with assault is guilty of assault. Sometimes it is necessary to take physical action against somebody to keep them off your property. This is known as “Defense of Property.” Sometimes it is necessary to take action to defend yourself. This “Self-Defense.” Sometime it is necessary to defend an innocent third-party. This is “Defense of a Third Party.” Each of these defenses may be available, depending on the circumstances, and depending on the law of the state in which the crime is being charged.
In some cases, an assault charge can be dismissed if the victim consented to the conduct. Consent can occur in many ways, such as when the assault is based on an alleged “sexual assault.” An experienced criminal defense attorney can assist you in analyzing all of the factors and circumstances in your case.
If you or someone you know has been implicated in an assault offense, please contact the Law Offices of Mark S. Guralnick at 1-866-337-2900 for a free case evaluation.