Elements of Assault

An assault happens when somebody threatens physical harm to the other person in a convincing manner. Assault is usually preceded by battery which is described as an illegal physical conduct and an act of violence which includes unwelcome sexual contact. Take note that not all threats are considered assault. There are two elements so that the offensive act may be called assault:

  • The act was purposely or intended to cause apprehension of offensive contact; and
  • The act was actually caused apprehension in the victim that offensive contact will happen. Thus, when a person who has the purpose to cause apprehension of imminent harm and succeeds in doing it commits the tort of assault, which is also considered a crime.

More Than Mere Words

Words without the act cannot form an assault. For instance, there is no assault when an individual waves his/her arms at another individual and shouts, “I am going to shoot you!” but there is no gun visible around. But, when the threatening words or statement comes with some action that shows the perpetrator has the ability to do the threat, an assault occurs. There is an assault when the person threatens to shoot another person while pointing a gun, even though the victim may later discovers that the gun was unloaded or real. Furthermore, pointing a gun without accompanying verbal threat is still considered an assault, presuming that the victim sees the gun.

Intention to Cause Apprehension

An assault requires an intent, which means that there must be a deliberate and unjustified interference with the personal right or freedom of the other person in a manner that causes harm. In assault, the intent is created when a reasonable individual is substantially sure that certain consequences will result; that the intent is instituted whether or not he/she actually intends those consequences to result. The pointing of the gun at the head of somebody is substantially certain to result in apprehension for the victim. In criminal law, intent defines as acting with a criminal or wrongful intention. Criminal assault statutes usually speak of acting “purposely,” “knowingly,” “recklessly,” as the degree of intent needed to establish that an offense happens.

Apprehension of Imminent Harm

The victim should have a reasonable apprehension of imminent injury or offensive contact. This element is created when the act will result apprehension in the mind of the reasonable person. Apprehension is not similar to fear but apprehension is a conscious awareness that an injury or offensive contact is imminent. Whether the act establishes an apprehension in the mind of the reasonable person differs will depend on the circumstances. As an example, it may take less to produce apprehension in the mind of a child compared to adult. Furthermore, when the victim is not aware of the threat of harm, there is no assault occurs. The assailant who points a gun at the person who is sleeping does not commit an assault. But if the threat is imminent, which means that the harmful act is impending or about to happen. When somebody threatens to kill someone at a later date would not constitute an assault.

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