assault, in law, an attempt or threat, going beyond mere words, to use violence, with the intent and the apparent ability to do harm to another. If violent contact actually occurs, the offense of battery has been committed modern criminal statutes often combine assault and battery. An assault may be both a crime and a tort , for which the party assaulted may sue for damages the victim's freedom, as to move or remain at peace, must have been impinged on. Modern criminal statutes recognize certain degrees of assault (e.g., with intent to kill, to do great bodily harm, to rape) as aggravated assaults and felonies, though simple assault remains, as at common law , a misdemeanor. Either malevolence or recklessness (as in driving a car in reckless disregard of human life) may constitute the intent necessary to assault in most jurisdictions.
See W. L. Prosser, Handbook of the Law of Torts (3d ed. 1964).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Crime and Law Enforcement
Browse By Subject
- Earth and the Environment +-
- History +-
- Literature and the Arts +-
- Medicine +-
- People +-
- Philosophy and Religion +-
- Places +-
- Australia and Oceania
- Britain, Ireland, France, and the Low Countries
- Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltic Nations
- Germany, Scandinavia, and Central Europe
- Latin America and the Caribbean
- Oceans, Continents, and Polar Regions
- Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and the Balkans
- United States, Canada, and Greenland
- Plants and Animals +-
- Science and Technology +-
- Social Sciences and the Law +-
- Sports and Everyday Life +-