Assault is a civil tort or it can be a criminal charge. Like any alleged legal wrongdoing, assault must be proved by meeting specific elements.  It is often connected to battery which is unlawful physical contact, but we will discuss that in a separate post.

Some elements of assault are:

  1. It is an intentional act;

  2. To create apprehension;

  3. Of imminent harmful or offensive contact.

  4. Aggravated Assault

Intentional Act

The first element of assault involves an intentional act.  Simply put, the alleged must make an attempt to frighten, intimidate, scare, or otherwise cause apprehension.  It cannot be that Person A sneezed so hard that it caused them to bump into Person B.  That is not assault.  That is an accident.  Intent is an essential element for an assault charge.

Creating Apprehension

It is important to note that while fear is a form of apprehension, apprehension is not a form of fear.  Apprehension is, simply put, a state of being on edge or expecting something to happen.  Apprehension must be which would affect a reasonable person.  The apprehension must be for imminent harm or offensive contact.  Simply put, the threat must make the person believe it is about to occur.

One of the best known examples of whether or not this element was met is to consider someone that is sleeping.  If a gun is pointed at a sleeping person, will that person feel apprehension?  No.  That person is asleep. Since this element is not met, there is no assault.

Imminent Contact

Imminent means that the person believes it is about to happen. If a person screamed, “I’m going to shoot you in the face!” and this person does not have a gun in their hand, assault did not occur.  The reason it did not occur is because someone cannot expect to be shot in the face at that moment when no gun is present.  Would that statement cause apprehension?  In a lot of people, it most certainly would cause feelings of apprehension.  A threat of bodily harm is an unpleasant experience.  However, if there is no means to follow through in a forthcoming moment, it is not assault.

Aggravated Assault

All assaults are not created equal.  Aggravated assault is punishable as a felony.  Common aggravated assaults may be included in cases that involve the intent to murder, rob, or rape an individual.  If there is intent to inflict serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon may be charged as aggravated.


Punishment for assault may depend on many factors if an individual is adjudged guilty.  In civil assault, the victim could be awarded compensatory damages.  In some jurisdictions, punitive damages may be awarded in an attempt to deter similar future behavior.  In criminal assault, an individual that pleads or is found guilty may be punished by a fine, imprisonment, and both.

If you are charged with assault, it is important that you hire an experienced attorney.  The right attorney can assist in a good defense; they can also, if necessary, advocate for a lesser punishment.