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Assault: It's easier to cross that line than you probably think

Most people probably don’t really understand what it takes to be charged with the crime of assault.

When people talk about being assaulted, they generally mean that they’ve been physically violated in some way — whether it was a punch to the face or a type of sexual contact. Under the law, however, unwanted physical contact is considered “battery,” not assault.

What is assault?

Assault is an act that purposefully makes another person afraid for his or her immediate physical safety.

That’s why so many people don’t realize how easy it is to cross the line into assault — they think that just scaring someone or issuing a threat isn’t really a legal offense because they didn’t act on that threat. As a result, they end up surprised when the police snap the cuffs on their wrists.

What are some important considerations?

There are some important considerations when it comes to the charge of criminal assault — all of which provide avenues for a possible defense.

For example, it’s almost impossible to commit assault through words alone. In order to rise to the level of assault, a threat has to create the fear of an immediate physical danger. So, someone who says, “I’m going to get you,” isn’t guilty of assault. There’s no immediate danger.

On the other hand, if someone says, “I’m going to get you,” and raises a balled up fist as if to strike — that’s assault — as long as he or she is actually within striking range. If the person issuing the threat and raising his or her fist is shouting from across a room full of people, it’s hard to say that there was an immediate or imminent threat of harm.

There also has to be actual intent behind the action that caused the victim to feel assaulted.

For example, if someone holds up a loaded gun and points it at you, you may be genuinely afraid for your immediate safety. However, if the person holding the gun thought that the gun was unloaded and thought everyone knew it, there was no intent on his or her part to cause that fear. Again, that wouldn’t be assault.

If you’re charged with assault, you need to talk the specifics over with an attorney carefully. Our firm has criminal defense attorneys with experience that can help you get through the process.