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.”