assault, - Murphy Law Office

Why an assault doesn’t always require an “assault” for conviction:

At least once a month this scenario plays out in my conference room.  A client, usually a younger male, sits at my table, staring at the charging documents in his hands.  He has just been served with a criminal complaint that alleges that he committed an assault.  With a puzzled expression on his face he asks, “How can I be charged with an assault?  I never laid a finger on him!”  Or, he says, “I barely touched him . . . he didn’t have a scratch on him!”  I, unfortunately, have to break the bad news to him:  under the law, assault doesn’t always require contact or injuries.  Welcome to the strange world of criminal law.

If you look up the word assault in a non-legal dictionary, the most common definition is something along the lines of “a sudden, violent attack.”  But, if you look up the word in a legal dictionary, you get a different definition, usually something like “an attempt to do violence, with or without battery.”