Assault “Legally” Defined

The following definitions for “assault” are taken from Ballantine’s Law Dictionary (3rd edition), Bouvier’s Law Dictionary (6th edition), Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd edition), and Webster’s Dictionary (1828):

 

 

(Ballantine’s)

A demonstration of an unlawful intent by one person to inflict immediate injury on the person of another then present; An intentional attempt by a person, by force or violence, to an injury to the person of another; an attempt to commit a battery, or any threatening gesture showing in itself or by words accompanying it an immediate intention, coupled with the present ability, to commit a battery [6 Am J2d Asslt & B § 3]. An act, other than the mere speaking of words, which directly or indirectly is the legal cause of putting another in apprehension of an immediate and harmful or offensive contact, rendering the actor civilly liable, if he intends thereby to inflict a harmful or offensive contact upon the other or a third person or to put the other or a third person in apprehension thereof, and the act is not consented to by the other, or otherwise privileged [Restatement, Torts § 21(1)].

The prolonged, excessive, and emotionally distressing interrogation of a civilian by a sergeant assigned to the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, which interrogation results in the temporary insanity of the civilian, constitutes an “assault” which is expressly excepted from the coverage of the Federal Tort Claims Act [United States v. Hambleton (CA9 Wash) 185 F2d 564, 23 ALR2d 568]. As the term “assault” appears in an exception, in a life or accident insurance policy, which relieves the insurer from liability for injuries or death sustained in such an altercation, it imports fault on the part of the insured [29 A AM J Rev ed Ins § 1201].

 

(Bouvier’s)

  1. An assault is any unlawful attempt or offer with force or violence to do a corporal hurt to another, whether from malice or wantonness; for example, by striking at him or even holding up the fist at him in a threatening or insulting manner, or with other circumstances as denote at the time. An intention, coupled with a present ability, of actual violence against his person, as by pointing a weapon at him when he is within reach of it (6 Rogers Rec: 9). When the injury is actually inflicted, it amounts to battery (qv).

  2. Assaults are either simple or aggravated

    – A simple assault is one where there is no intention to do any other injury. This is punished at common law by fine and imprisonment

    – Aggravated assault is one that has in addition to the bare intention to commit it, another object which is also criminal; for example, if a man should fire a pistol at another and miss him, the former would be guilty of an assault with intent to murder; so an assault with intent to rob a man, or with intent to spoil his clothes, and the like are aggravated assaults, and they are more severely punished than simple assaults [general references, 1 East, P.C. 406; Bull N.P. 15; Haw. P. B. b. 1, c. 62, s. 12; 1 Russ. Cr. 604; 2 Camp. Rep. 650 1 Wheeler’s Cr. C. 364; 6 Rogers’ Rec. 9; 1 Serg. & Rawle, 347 Bac. Ab. h. t.; Roscoe. Cr. Ev. 210].

 

(Black’s)

An unlawful attempt or offer, on the part of one man, with force or violence, to inflict a bodily hurt upon another.

An attempt or offer to beat another, without touching him; as if one lifts up his cane or his fist in a threatening manner at another; or strikes at him, but misses him [1 Bl. Comm. 120; 3 Steph. Comm. 469].

Aggravated assault is one committed with the intention of committing some additional crime; or one attended with circumstances of peculiar outrage or atrocity. Simple assault is one committed with no intention to do any other injury.

An assault is an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another [Pen. Code Cal. § 240].

An assault is an attempt to commit a violent injury on the person of another [Code Ga. 1882, § 4357].

An assault is any willful and unlawful attempt or offer, with force or violence, to do a corporal hurt to another [Pen. Code Dak. § 305].

An assault is an offer or an attempt to do a corporal injury to another; as by striking at him with the hand, or with a stick, or by shaking the fist at him, or presenting a gun or other weapon within such distance as that a hurt might be given, or drawing a sword and brandishing it in a menacing manner; providing the act is done with intent to do some corporal hurt [United States v. Hand, 2 Wash. C. C. 435, Fed. Cas. No. 15, 297].

An assault is an attempt, with force or violence, to do a corporal injury to another, and may consist of any act tending to such corporal injury, accompanied with such circumstances as denote at the time an intention, coupled with the present ability, of using actual violence against the person [Hays v. People, 1 Hill (NY) 351].

An assault is an attempt or offer, with force or violence, to do a corporal hurt to another, whether from malice or wantonness, with such circumstances as denote at the time, an intention to do it, coupled with a present ability to carry such intention into effect [Tarver v. State, 43 Ala. 354].

An assault is an intentional attempt, by violence, to do an injury to the person of another. It must be intentional; for, if it can be collected, notwithstanding appearances to the contrary, that there is not a present purpose to do an injury, there is no assault [State v. Davis, 23 N.C. 127, 35 Am. Dec. 735].

In order to constitute an assault there must be something more than a mere menace. There must be violence begun to be executed. But, where there is a clear intent to commit violence, accompanied by acts which if not interrupted, will be followed by personal injury, the violence is commenced and the assault is complete [People v. Yslas, 27 Cal. 633].

  • Simple assault: An offer or attempt to do bodily harm which falls short of an actual battery; an offer or attempt to beat another, but without touching him; for example, a blow delivered within striking distance, but which does not reach its mark [See State v. Lightsey, 43 S. C. 114, 20 S. E. 975; Norton v. State, 14 Tex. 393].

 

(Webster’s)

ASSAULT’, n. [L. assulto, of ad and salto, to leap, formed on salio, or its root. See Assail. We have the same root in insult and result.]

1. An attack or violent onset, whether by an individual, a company, or an army. An assault by private persons may be made with or without weapons. As assault by an army is a violent hostile attack; and when made upon a fort or fortified place is called a storm, as opposed to sap or siege.
2. An attack by hostile words or measures; as, an assault upon the prerogatives of a prince, or upon a constitution of government.
3. In Law, an unlawful setting upon one’s person; an attempt or offer to beat another, without touching his person; as by lifting the fist or a cane, in a threatening manner. If the blow aimed takes effect, it is a battery.
 

ASSAULT’, v.t.

1. To attack or fall upon by violence, or with a hostile intention; as, to assault a man, a house or town.
2. To invade or fall on with force; as, the cry of war assaults our ears.
3. To attack by words, arguments or unfriendly measures, with a view to shake, impair or overthrow; as, to assault a character, the laws or the administration.
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