Assault

Assault

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Encyclopedia
In law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

, assault is a crime
Crime
Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction...

 causing a victim to fear violence. The term is often confused with battery
Battery (crime)
Battery is a criminal offense involving unlawful physical contact, distinct from assault which is the fear of such contact.In the United States, criminal battery, or simply battery, is the use of force against another, resulting in harmful or offensive contact...

, which involves physical contact. The specific meaning of assault varies between countries, but can refer to an act that causes another to apprehend immediate and personal violence, or in the more limited sense of a threat of violence caused by an immediate show of force. Assault in some US jurisdictions is defined more broadly still as any intentional physical contact with another person without their consent; but in the majority of the United States and in England & Wales and all other common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

 jurisdictions in the world, this is defined instead as battery
Battery (crime)
Battery is a criminal offense involving unlawful physical contact, distinct from assault which is the fear of such contact.In the United States, criminal battery, or simply battery, is the use of force against another, resulting in harmful or offensive contact...

. Some jurisdictions have incorporated the definition of civil assault into the definition of the crime making it a criminal assault to intentionally cause another person to apprehend a harmful or offensive contact.

Battery


In common law, criminal assault often accompanied battery
Battery (crime)
Battery is a criminal offense involving unlawful physical contact, distinct from assault which is the fear of such contact.In the United States, criminal battery, or simply battery, is the use of force against another, resulting in harmful or offensive contact...

. See common assault
Common assault
Common assault was an offence under the common law of England, and has been held now to be a statutory offence in England and Wales. It is committed by a person who causes another person to apprehend the immediate use of unlawful violence by the defendant. It was thought to include battery...

. The elements of battery are (1) a volitional act (2) done for the purpose of causing a harmful or offensive contact with another person or under circumstances that make such contact substantially certain to occur and (3) which causes such contact. Thus throwing a rock at someone for the purpose of hitting him is a battery if the rock in fact strikes the person and is an assault if the rock misses. The fact that the person may have been unaware that the rock had been thrown at him is irrelevant under this definition of assault.

Aggravated assault


Aggravated
Aggravation (legal concept)
Aggravation, in law, is "any circumstance attending the commission of a crime or tort which increases its guilt or enormity or adds to its injurious consequences, but which is above and beyond the essential constituents of the crime or tort itself."...

 assault is, in some jurisdictions, a stronger form of assault, usually using a deadly weapon
Deadly weapon
A deadly weapon, sometimes dangerous weapon, is a statutory definition listing certain items which can inflict mortal or great bodily harm. In addition, deadly weapon statutes often contain "catch all" provisions which describe abilities used to designate other implements as deadly weapons.Whether...

. A person has committed an aggravated assault when that person:
  • attempts to cause serious bodily injury
    Grievous bodily harm
    Grievous bodily harm is a term of art used in English criminal law which has become synonymous with the offences that are created by sections 18 and 20 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861....

     to another person such as in the case of kidnapping
  • attempts to have sexual activity with another person under the age of consent
  • attempts or causes bodily injury to another person with a deadly weapon.


Aggravated assault can also be charged in cases of harm against police officers or other public servants, or for bodily harm stemming from the reckless operation of a motor vehicle
Motor vehicle
A motor vehicle or road vehicle is a self-propelled wheeled vehicle that does not operate on rails, such as trains or trolleys. The vehicle propulsion is provided by an engine or motor, usually by an internal combustion engine, or an electric motor, or some combination of the two, such as hybrid...

. The latter is often referred to as either vehicular assault or aggravated assault with a motor vehicle.

Defenses


Although the range and precise application of defenses varies between jurisdictions, the following represents a list of the defenses that may apply to all levels of assault:

Consent


Exceptions exist to cover unsolicited physical contact which amount to normal social behavior known as de minimis
De minimis
De minimis is a Latin expression meaning about minimal things, normally in the locutions de minimis non curat praetor or de minimis non curat lex .In risk assessment it refers to a level of risk that is too small to be concerned with...

 harm. Assault can also be considered in cases involving the spitting on, or unwanted exposure of bodily fluids to others.

Consent may be a complete or partial defense to assault. In some jurisdictions, most notably England, it is not a defense where the degree of injury is severe, as long as there is no legally recognized good reason for the assault. This can have important consequences when dealing with issues such as consensual sadomasochistic sexual activity, the most notable case being the Operation Spanner
Operation Spanner
Operation Spanner was the name of an operation carried out by police in the United Kingdom city of Manchester in 1987, as a result of which a group of homosexuals were convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm for their involvement in consensual sadomasochism over a ten year period.The...

 case. Legally recognized good reasons for consent include; surgery, activities within the rules of a game (Mixed martial arts
Mixed martial arts
Mixed Martial Arts is a full contact combat sport that allows the use of both striking and grappling techniques, both standing and on the ground, including boxing, wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, muay Thai, kickboxing, karate, judo and other styles. The roots of modern mixed martial arts can be...

, wrestling
Wrestling
Wrestling is a form of grappling type techniques such as clinch fighting, throws and takedowns, joint locks, pins and other grappling holds. A wrestling bout is a physical competition, between two competitors or sparring partners, who attempt to gain and maintain a superior position...

, boxing
Boxing
Boxing, also called pugilism, is a combat sport in which two people fight each other using their fists. Boxing is supervised by a referee over a series of between one to three minute intervals called rounds...

, or contact sports), bodily adornment (R v Wilson), or horseplay (Jones and others). However, any activity outside the rules of the game is not legally recognized as a defense of consent. In Scottish Law, consent is not a defense for assault.

Arrest and other official acts


Police officers and court officials have a general power to use force for the purpose of performing an arrest
Arrest
An arrest is the act of depriving a person of his or her liberty usually in relation to the purported investigation and prevention of crime and presenting into the criminal justice system or harm to oneself or others...

 or generally carrying out their official duties. Thus, a court officer taking possession of goods under a court order may use force if reasonably necessary.

Punishment


In some jurisdictions such as Singapore
Caning in Singapore
Caning is a widely used form of legal corporal punishment in Singapore. It can be divided into several contexts: judicial, military, school, reformatory/prison, and domestic/private....

, judicial corporal punishment
Judicial corporal punishment
Judicial corporal punishment refers to the infliction of corporal punishment as a result of a sentence by a court of law. The punishment can be flogging, caning, birching, whipping, or strapping...

 is part of the legal system. The officers who administer the punishment have immunity
Sovereign immunity
Sovereign immunity, or crown immunity, is a legal doctrine by which the sovereign or state cannot commit a legal wrong and is immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution....

 from prosecution for assault.

In the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, corporal punishment administered to children by their parent or legal guardian is not legally considered to be assault unless it is deemed to be excessive or unreasonable. What constitutes "reasonable" varies in both statutory law and case law
Case law
In law, case law is the set of reported judicial decisions of selected appellate courts and other courts of first instance which make new interpretations of the law and, therefore, can be cited as precedents in a process known as stare decisis...

. Unreasonable physical punishment may be charged as assault or under a separate statute for child abuse
Child abuse
Child abuse is the physical, sexual, emotional mistreatment, or neglect of a child. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Children And Families define child maltreatment as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or...

.

Many countries, including some US states, also permit the use of less severe corporal punishment for children in school. In English law
English law
English law is the legal system of England and Wales, and is the basis of common law legal systems used in most Commonwealth countries and the United States except Louisiana...

, s58 Children Act 2004
Children Act 2004
The Children Act 2004 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.The Act amended the Children Act 1989, largely in consequence of the Victoria Climbié inquiry....

, limits the availability of the lawful correction defense to common assault under s39 Criminal Justice Act 1988.

Prevention of crime


This may or may not involve self defense in that, using a reasonable degree of force to prevent another from committing a crime could involve preventing an assault, but it could be preventing a crime not involving the use of personal violence.

Defense of property


Some jurisdictions allow force to be used in defense of property
Defense of property
The defence of property is a possible justification used by defendants who argue that they should not be held liable for the loss and injury they have caused because they were acting to protect their property. Courts have generally ruled that the use of force may be acceptable.-English...

, to prevent damage either in its own right, or under one or both of the preceding classes of defense in that a threat or attempt to damage property might be considered a crime (in English law, under s5 Criminal Damage Act 1971 it may be argued that the defendant has a lawful excuse to damaging property during the defense and a defense under s3 Criminal Law Act 1967
Criminal Law Act 1967
The Criminal Law Act 1967 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. However, with some minor exceptions, it generally applies to only England and Wales. It made some major changes to English criminal law...

) subject to the need to deter vigilante
Vigilante
A vigilante is a private individual who legally or illegally punishes an alleged lawbreaker, or participates in a group which metes out extralegal punishment to an alleged lawbreaker....

s and excessive self-help. Furthermore, some jurisdictions, such as Ohio, allow residents in their homes to use force when ejecting an intruder. The resident merely needs to assert to the court that he felt threatened by the intruder's presence.

This defense is not universal: in New Zealand (for example) homeowners have been convicted of assault for attacking burglars.

Canada


Assault is an offence under s. 55 of the Criminal Code of Canada
Criminal Code of Canada
The Criminal Code or Code criminel is a law that codifies most criminal offences and procedures in Canada. Its official long title is "An Act respecting the criminal law"...

. Similar to the United States, there are many different ways in which an assault can occur. Generally, an assault occurs when a person directly or indirectly applies force intentionally to another person. It can also occur when a person attempts to apply such force, or threatens to do so, without the consent of the other person. An injury need not occur for an assault to be committed, but the force used in the assault must be offensive in nature with an intention to apply force. It can be an assault to “tap,” “pinch,” “push,” or direct another such minor action toward another, but an accidental application of force is not an assault. The potential punishment for an assault in Canada varies depending on the manner in which the charge proceeds through the court system and the type of assault that is committed. Some variations on the ordinary felony of assault include:
  • Assault: The offence is created by section 266 of the Code.
  • Assault with a weapon: Section 267(a) of the Code.
  • Assault causing bodily harm: See assault causing bodily harm
    Assault causing bodily harm
    Assault causing bodily harm is a statutory offence of aggravated assault in Canada. It is committed by anyone who, in committing an assault, causes bodily harm to the complainant...

    .
  • Aggravated assault: Section 268 of the Code.
  • Assaulting a peace officer, etc.: Section 270 of the Code.
  • Sexual assault: Section 271 of the Code.
  • Sexual assault with a weapon or threats or causing bodily harm: Section 272 of the Code.
  • Aggravated sexual assault: See aggravated sexual assault
    Aggravated sexual assault
    Aggravated Sexual Assault is when one commits an aggravated assault of a sexual nature and who wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant....

    .

India


The Indian Penal Code covers the punishments and types of assault in s.351 through s.358.
The Code further explains that "mere words do not amount to an assault. But the words which a person uses may give to his gestures or preparation such a meaning as may make those gestures or preparations amount to an assault." Assault is in Indian criminal law an attempt to use criminal force (with criminal force being described in s.350). The attempt itself has been made an offence in India, as in other states.

Nigeria


The Criminal Code Act (chapter 29 of Part V; sections 351 to 365) creates a number of offences of assault. Assault is defined by section 252 of that Act. Assault is a misdemeanor punishable by one year imprisonment; assault with "intent to have carnal knowledge of him or her" or who indecently assaults another, or who commits other more-serious variants of assault (as defined in the Act) are guilty of a felony, and longer prison terms are provided for.

Pacific Islands


Marshall Islands

The offence of assault is created by section 113 of the Criminal Code. A person is guilty of this offence if he unlawfully offers or attempts, with force or violence, to strike, beat, wound, or do bodily harm to, another.

Republic of Ireland


Section 2 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997
Non-Fatal Offences Against The Person Act 1997
The Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 is an Act of the Oireachtas which virtually codified the criminal law on offences against the person in the Republic of Ireland...

 creates the offence of assault, and section 3 of that Act creates the offence of assault causing harm.

South Africa


South African law does not draw the distinction between assault and battery. Assault is a common law crime defined as "unlawfully and intentionally applying force to the person of another, or inspiring a belief in that other that force is immediately to be applied to him." The law also recognises the crime of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm
Grievous bodily harm
Grievous bodily harm is a term of art used in English criminal law which has become synonymous with the offences that are created by sections 18 and 20 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861....

, where grievous bodily harm is defined as "harm which in itself is such as seriously to interfere with health." The common law crime of indecent assault
Indecent assault
Indecent assault is an offence of aggravated assault in many jurisdictions. It is characterised as a sex crime.Indecent assault was an offence in England and Wales under sections 14 and 15 the Sexual Offences Act 1956...

was repealed by the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007
Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007
The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2007 is a South African Act of Parliament which comprehensively revised and codified the law relating to sex offences...

, and replaced by a statutory crime of sexual assault
Sexual assault
Sexual assault is an assault of a sexual nature on another person, or any sexual act committed without consent. Although sexual assaults most frequently are by a man on a woman, it may involve any combination of two or more men, women and children....

.

United Kingdom


Piracy with violence: Section 2 of the Piracy Act 1837
Piracy Act 1837
The Piracy Act 1837 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It abolished the death penalty for most offences of piracy, but created a new offence often known as piracy with violence, which was punishable with death...

 provides that it is an offence, amongst other things, for a person, with intent to commit or at the time of or immediately before or immediately after committing the crime of piracy in respect of any ship or vessel, to assault, with intent to murder, any person being on board of or belonging to such ship or vessel.

Assault on an officer of Revenue and Customs: This offence is created by section 32(1) of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005
Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005
The Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which combined the Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise into a single government department, HM Revenue and Customs...

.

Attacks on internationally protected persons: Section 1(1)(a) of the Internationally Protected Persons Act 1978 (c.17) makes provision for assault occasioning actual bodily harm or causing injury on "protected persons" (including Heads of State).

Attacks on UN Staff workers: Section 1(2)(a) of the United Nations Personnel Act 1997 (c.13) makes provision for assault causing injury, and section 1(2)(b) makes provision for assault occasioning actual bodily harm, on UN staff.

Abolished offence:

Assault on customs and excise officers, etc.: Section 16(1)(a) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 (c.2) provided that it was an offence to, amongst other things, assault any person duly engaged in the performance of any duty or the exercise of any power imposed or conferred on him by or under any enactment relating to an assigned matter, or any person acting in his aid. For the meaning of "assault" in this provision, see Logdon v. DPP [1976] Crim LR 121, DC
Divisional Court
A Divisional Court, in relation to the High Court of Justice of England and Wales, means a court sitting with at least two judges. Matters heard by a Divisional Court include some criminal cases in the High Court as well as certain judicial review cases...

. This offence was abolished and replaced by the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005
Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005
The Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which combined the Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise into a single government department, HM Revenue and Customs...

.

England and Wales


English law provides for two offences of assault: common assault
Common assault
Common assault was an offence under the common law of England, and has been held now to be a statutory offence in England and Wales. It is committed by a person who causes another person to apprehend the immediate use of unlawful violence by the defendant. It was thought to include battery...

 and battery
Battery (crime)
Battery is a criminal offense involving unlawful physical contact, distinct from assault which is the fear of such contact.In the United States, criminal battery, or simply battery, is the use of force against another, resulting in harmful or offensive contact...

. Assault (or common assault) is committed if one intentionally or recklessly causes another person to apprehend immediate and unlawful personal violence. Violence in this context means any unlawful touching, though there is some debate over whether the touching must also be hostile. Confusingly, the terms "assault" and "common assault" often encompass the separate offence of battery
Battery (crime)
Battery is a criminal offense involving unlawful physical contact, distinct from assault which is the fear of such contact.In the United States, criminal battery, or simply battery, is the use of force against another, resulting in harmful or offensive contact...

, even in statutory settings such as s 40(3)(a) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.

A common assault
Common assault
Common assault was an offence under the common law of England, and has been held now to be a statutory offence in England and Wales. It is committed by a person who causes another person to apprehend the immediate use of unlawful violence by the defendant. It was thought to include battery...

 is an assault that lacks any of the aggravating features which Parliament has deemed serious enough to deserve a higher penalty. Section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 provides that common assault, like battery, is triable only in the magistrates court in England and Wales (unless it is linked to a more serious offence, which is triable in the Crown Court
Crown Court
The Crown Court of England and Wales is, together with the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal, one of the constituent parts of the Senior Courts of England and Wales...

). Additionally, if a Defendant has been charged on an indictment with assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH), or racially/religiously aggravated assault, then a jury in the Crown Court may acquit the Defendant of the more serious offence, but still convict of common assault if it finds common assault has been committed.
Aggravated assaults

Assault occasioning actual bodily harm: The offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm is created by section 47 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861
Offences Against The Person Act 1861
The Offences against the Person Act 1861 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It consolidated provisions related to offences against the person from a number of earlier statutes into a single Act...

.

Assault with intent to rob: The penalty for assault with intent to rob is provided by section 8(2) of the Theft Act 1968
Theft Act 1968
The Theft Act 1968 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It creates a number of offences against property in England and Wales.On 15 January 2007 the Fraud Act 2006 came into force, redefining most of the offences of deception.-History:...

.

Racially or religiously aggravated common assault: This offence is created by section 29(1)(c) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998
Crime and Disorder Act 1998
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Act was published on 2 December 1997 and received Royal Assent in July 1998...

.

Racially or religiously aggravated assault occasioning actual bodily harm: This offence is created by section 29(1)(b) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998
Crime and Disorder Act 1998
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Act was published on 2 December 1997 and received Royal Assent in July 1998...

.

Assault with intent to resist arrest: The offence of assault with intent to resist arrest
Assault with intent to resist arrest
Assault with intent to resist arrest is a statutory offence of aggravated assault in England and Wales and Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.-England and Wales:...

 is created by section 38 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861
Offences Against The Person Act 1861
The Offences against the Person Act 1861 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It consolidated provisions related to offences against the person from a number of earlier statutes into a single Act...

.

Assault on a constable in the execution of his duty: Section 89(1) of the Police Act 1996
Police Act 1996
The Police Act 1996 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which defined the current police areas, constituted the current police authorities and set out the relationship between the Home Secretary and the territorial police forces. It replaced the Police and Magistrates Courts Act...

 provides that it is an offence for a person to assault either:
a constable
Constable
A constable is a person holding a particular office, most commonly in law enforcement. The office of constable can vary significantly in different jurisdictions.-Etymology:...

 acting in the execution of their duty; or
a person assisting a constable in the execution of their duty.


It is a summary offence
Summary offence
A summary offence is a criminal act in some common law jurisdictions that can be proceeded with summarily, without the right to a jury trial and/or indictment .- United States :...

 which carries a maximum penalty of six months' imprisonment and/or a fine. The "starting sentence," however, is a short custodial sentence, and it is considered a more serious offence than common assault.

The constable must be acting "in the execution of his duty" for this offence to be made out. If he exceeds the remit of his duty (e.g. acts unlawfully in assaulting the Defendant), the offence will not be made out.
The Defendant does not actually have to be aware that the person he is assaulting is a constable (Forbes (1865) 10 Cox CC 362).


The fact that the victim is a police officer is not, in itself, an aggravating factor which would justify more serious charge. The criteria for a charge under section 47 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861 do not distinguish between members of the public and police officers as the victim.
According to R (Fullard) v Woking Magistrates' Court (2005) EWHC 2922 (Admin) a constable cannot be acting in the execution of their duty when unlawfully on private property. Thus, if the officer is not acting under the authority of a warrant, acting under a statutory or common law power of entry, or in hot pursuit, the person lawfully in possession of land is entitled to withdraw permission for the officer to remain. Should the officer refuse to leave, the officer will cease to be "acting in the execution of their duty". To make an effective withdrawal of permission, clear words must be used. Merely directing offensive remarks at the officer which amount to 'go away' will not necessarily withdraw any implied permission to enter or remain. Further, when properly required to leave, the officer must be allowed a reasonable opportunity to leave. However, once the opportunity to leave voluntarily has passed, it will not be an assault for the land owner to use reasonable force to cause the officer to leave.


Assault on a prison custody officer: This offence is created by section 90(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 (c.53).

Assault on a secure training centre custody officer: This offence is created by section 13(1) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It introduced a number of changes to the existing law, most notably in the restriction and reduction of existing rights and in greater penalties for certain "anti-social" behaviours...

 (c.33).

Assault on officer saving wreck: This offence is created by section 37 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861
Offences Against The Person Act 1861
The Offences against the Person Act 1861 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It consolidated provisions related to offences against the person from a number of earlier statutes into a single Act...

.

Assaulting an officer of the court: This offence is created by section 14(1)(b) of the County Courts Act 1984
County Courts Act 1984
The County Courts Act 1984 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom; the long title of the Act is "An Act to consolidate certain enactments relating to county courts". The Act replaced the County Courts Act 1959....

.

Cruelty to persons under sixteen: Section 1(1) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933
Children and Young Persons Act 1933
The Children and Young Persons Act 1933 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland...

 provides that it is an offence for a person who has attained the age of sixteen years, and who has responsibility for a child or young person under that age, to, amongst other things, wilfully assault that child or young person, or to cause or procure that child or young person to be assaulted, in a manner likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or injury to health.

Sexual assault: The offence of sexual assault created by section 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003
Sexual Offences Act 2003
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland that was passed in 2003 and became law on 1 May 2004.It replaced older sexual offences laws with more specific and explicit wording...

. It is not defined in terms of the offences of common assault or battery. It instead requires intentional touching and the absence of a reasonable belief in consent.

Scotland


In Scots Law
Scots law
Scots law is the legal system of Scotland. It is considered a hybrid or mixed legal system as it traces its roots to a number of different historical sources. With English law and Northern Irish law it forms the legal system of the United Kingdom; it shares with the two other systems some...

, assault is defined as an "attack upon the person of another". There is no distinction made in Scotland between assault and battery (which is not a term used in Scots law), although, as in England and Wales, assault can be occasioned without a physical attack on another's person, as demonstrated in Atkinson v. HM Advocate
Lord Advocate
Her Majesty's Advocate , known as the Lord Advocate , is the chief legal officer of the Scottish Government and the Crown in Scotland for both civil and criminal matters that fall within the devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament...

wherein the accused was found guilty of assaulting a shop assistant by simply jumping over a counter wearing a ski mask. The court said:
Scottish law also provides for a more serious charge of aggravated assault on the basis of such factors as severity of injury, the use of a weapon, or Hamesuken (to assault a person in his own home). The mens rea
Mens rea
Mens rea is Latin for "guilty mind". In criminal law, it is viewed as one of the necessary elements of a crime. The standard common law test of criminal liability is usually expressed in the Latin phrase, actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, which means "the act does not make a person guilty...

for assault is simply "evil intent", although this has been held to mean no more than that assault "cannot be committed accidentally or recklessly or negligently" as upheld in Lord Advocate's Reference No 2 of 1992 where it was found that a "hold-up" in a shop justified as a joke would still constitute an offence.

It is a separate offence to assault on a constable in the execution of his duty, under section 41 of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967
Police (Scotland) Act 1967
The Police Act 1967 is an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament which provides the current framework within which the territorial police forces in Scotland operate...

 which provides that it is an offence for a person to, amongst other things, assault a constable in the execution of his duty or a person assisting a constable in the execution of his duty.

Northern Ireland


Several offences of assault exist in Northern Ireland. The Offences against the Person Act 1861
Offences Against The Person Act 1861
The Offences against the Person Act 1861 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It consolidated provisions related to offences against the person from a number of earlier statutes into a single Act...

 creates the offences of:
  • Common assault and battery: a summary offence, under section 42;
  • Aggravated assault and battery: a summary offence, under section 43
  • Common assault: under section 47
  • Assault occasioning actual bodily harm: under section 47

The Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act (Northern Ireland) 1968 creates the offences of:
  • Assault with intent to resist arrest: under section 7(1)(b); this offence was formerly created by s.38 of the OAPA 1861.


That act formerly created the offence of 'Assault on a constable in the execution of his duty'. under secction 7(1)(a), but that section has been superseded by section 66(1) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 (c.32) which now provides that it is an offence for a person to, amongst other things, assault a constable in the execution of his duty, or a person assisting a constable in the execution of his duty.

United States


American common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

 has defined assault as an attempt to commit a battery
Battery (crime)
Battery is a criminal offense involving unlawful physical contact, distinct from assault which is the fear of such contact.In the United States, criminal battery, or simply battery, is the use of force against another, resulting in harmful or offensive contact...

.

Assault is typically treated as a misdemeanor
Misdemeanor
A misdemeanor is a "lesser" criminal act in many common law legal systems. Misdemeanors are generally punished much less severely than felonies, but theoretically more so than administrative infractions and regulatory offences...

 and not as a felony
Felony
A felony is a serious crime in the common law countries. The term originates from English common law where felonies were originally crimes which involved the confiscation of a convicted person's land and goods; other crimes were called misdemeanors...

 (unless it involves a law enforcement
Police
The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

 officer). The more serious crime of aggravated assault is treated as a felony.

Four elements were required at common law:
  1. The apparent, present ability to carry out;
  2. An unlawful attempt;
  3. To commit a violent injury;
  4. Upon another.


Simple assault can be distinguished without the intent of injury upon another person. The violation of one's personal space or touching in a way the victim deemed inappropriate can be simple assault. In common law states an assault is not committed by merely, for example, swearing at another; without threat of battery, there can be no assault.

As the criminal law evolved, element one was weakened in most jurisdictions so that a reasonable fear of bodily injury would suffice. These four elements were eventually codified in most states.

Modern American statutes define assault as:
  1. an attempt to cause or purposely, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another; or,
  2. negligently causing bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon
    Deadly weapon
    A deadly weapon, sometimes dangerous weapon, is a statutory definition listing certain items which can inflict mortal or great bodily harm. In addition, deadly weapon statutes often contain "catch all" provisions which describe abilities used to designate other implements as deadly weapons.Whether...

    .


Some states also define assault as an attempt to menace (or actual menacing) by placing another person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.

States vary on whether it is possible to commit an "attempted assault" since it can be considered a double inchoate offense
Inchoate offense
An inchoate offense, inchoate offence, or inchoate crime is the crime of preparing for or seeking to commit another crime. The most common example of an inchoate offense is conspiracy...

.

In some states, consent is a complete defense to assault. In other jurisdictions, mutual consent is an incomplete defense, with the result that the misdemeanor is treated as a petty misdemeanor.

In New York State assault as defined in the New York State Penal Code Article 120, requires an actual injury. Most other states define this as battery. There is no crime of battery in New York. The threat of imminent injury without physical contact in New York is called Menacing. New York also has specific laws against Hazing when such threats are made as requiement to join an organization.

Furthermore, the crime of assault generally requires that both the perpetrator and the victim of an assault are human. Thus, there is no assault if an ox gores a man. However, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004
Unborn Victims of Violence Act
The Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004 is a United States law which recognizes a "child in utero" as a legal victim, if he or she is injured or killed during the commission of any of over 60 listed federal crimes of violence...

 treats the fetus
Fetus
A fetus is a developing mammal or other viviparous vertebrate after the embryonic stage and before birth.In humans, the fetal stage of prenatal development starts at the beginning of the 11th week in gestational age, which is the 9th week after fertilization.-Etymology and spelling variations:The...

 as a separate person for the purposes of assault and other violent crimes, under certain limited circumstances. See H.R. 1997 / P.L. 108-212

Some possible examples of defenses, mitigating circumstances, or failures of proof are:
  • A defendant could argue that since he was drunk, he could not form the specific intent to commit assault. This defense would most likely fail since only involuntary intoxication
    Intoxication defense
    General intent crimes do not require an intent to break the law, just an unlawful act and an intent to act in such a fashion. Specific intent crimes, however, require a certain mental state to break the law. One such offense, for example, is residential burglary...

     is accepted as a defense in most American jurisdictions.
  • A defendant could also argue that he was engaged in mutually consensual behavior.

Ancient Greece


Assault in Ancient Greece was normally termed hubris
Hubris
Hubris , also hybris, means extreme haughtiness, pride or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one's own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power....

. Contrary to modern usage, the term did not have the extended connotation of overweening pride
Pride
Pride is an inwardly directed emotion that carries two common meanings. With a negative connotation, pride refers to an inflated sense of one's personal status or accomplishments, often used synonymously with hubris...

, self-confidence or arrogance, often resulting in fatal retribution. In Ancient Greece, "hubris" referred to actions which, intentionally or not, shamed and humiliated the victim, and frequently the perpetrator as well. It was most evident in the public and private actions of the powerful and rich.

Violations of the law against hubris included what would today be termed assault and battery; sexual crimes ranging from forcible rape of women or children to consensual but improper activities; or the theft of public or sacred property. Two well-known cases are found in the speeches of Demosthenes
Demosthenes
Demosthenes was a prominent Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens. His orations constitute a significant expression of contemporary Athenian intellectual prowess and provide an insight into the politics and culture of ancient Greece during the 4th century BC. Demosthenes learned rhetoric by...

, a prominent statesman and orator in ancient Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

. These two examples occurred when first, Meidias punched Demosthenes in the face in the theater (Against Meidias), and second when (in Against Konon) a defendant allegedly assaulted a man and crowed over the victim.

Hubris, though not specifically defined, was a legal term and was considered a crime in classical Athens. It was also considered the greatest sin of the ancient Greek world. That was so because it not only was proof of excessive pride, but also resulted in violent acts by or to those involved. The category of acts constituting hubris for the ancient Greeks apparently broadened from the original specific reference to mutilation of a corpse, or a humiliation of a defeated foe, or irreverent, "outrageous treatment", in general.

The meaning was eventually further generalized in its modern English usage to apply to any outrageous act or exhibition of pride or disregard for basic moral laws. Such an act may be referred to as an "act of hubris", or the person committing the act may be said to be hubristic. Atë
Ate
Atë or Aite a Greek word for "ruin, folly, delusion", is the action performed by the hero, usually because of hubris, that leads to his or her death or downfall. There is also a goddess by that name in Greek mythology, a personification of the same.In Homer's Iliad she is called eldest daughter...

, Greek for 'ruin, folly, delusion', is the action performed by the hero, usually because of his/her hubris, or great pride, that leads to his/her death or downfall.

Crucial to this definition are the ancient Greek concepts of honor (timē) and shame. The concept of timē included not only the exaltation of the one receiving honor, but also the shaming of the one overcome by the act of hubris. This concept of honor is akin to a zero-sum
Zero-sum
In game theory and economic theory, a zero-sum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which a participant's gain of utility is exactly balanced by the losses of the utility of other participant. If the total gains of the participants are added up, and the total losses are...

 game. Rush Rehm
Rush Rehm
Rush Rehm is an Associate Professor of Drama and Classics at Stanford University, California, in the United States. He also works professionally as an actor and director. He has published many works on classical theatre.- Bibliography :...

 simplifies this definition to the contemporary concept of "insolence, contempt, and excessive violence".

See also

  • Affray
    Affray
    In many legal jurisdictions related to English common law, affray is a public order offence consisting of the fighting of two or more persons in a public place to the terror of ordinary people...

  • Battery (crime)
    Battery (crime)
    Battery is a criminal offense involving unlawful physical contact, distinct from assault which is the fear of such contact.In the United States, criminal battery, or simply battery, is the use of force against another, resulting in harmful or offensive contact...

  • Assault (tort)
    Assault (tort)
    In common law, assault is the tort of acting intentionally, that is with either general or specific intent, causing the reasonable apprehension of an immediate harmful or offensive contact. Because assault requires intent, it is considered an intentional tort, as opposed to a tort of negligence...

  • Street fighting
    Street fighting
    Street fighting is a colloquial term used to denote unsanctioned, illegal in some countries, hand-to-hand fighting in public places, between individuals or groups of people....

  • Domestic violence
    Domestic violence
    Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, battering, family violence, and intimate partner violence , is broadly defined as a pattern of abusive behaviors by one or both partners in an intimate relationship such as marriage, dating, family, or cohabitation...

  • Gay-bashing
  • Hate crime
    Hate crime
    In crime and law, hate crimes occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group, usually defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, gender identity, social status or...

  • Mayhem
    Mayhem (crime)
    Mayhem is a criminal offence consisting of the intentional maiming of another person.Under the common law of England and Wales and other common law jurisdictions, it originally consisted of the intentional and wanton removal of a body part that would handicap a person's ability to defend himself in...

  • Misdemeanor
    Misdemeanor
    A misdemeanor is a "lesser" criminal act in many common law legal systems. Misdemeanors are generally punished much less severely than felonies, but theoretically more so than administrative infractions and regulatory offences...

  • Offences against the Person Act 1861
    Offences Against The Person Act 1861
    The Offences against the Person Act 1861 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It consolidated provisions related to offences against the person from a number of earlier statutes into a single Act...

  • Terrorist threats
    Terrorism
    Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

  • Rape
    Rape
    Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. The...

  • Sexual assault
    Sexual assault
    Sexual assault is an assault of a sexual nature on another person, or any sexual act committed without consent. Although sexual assaults most frequently are by a man on a woman, it may involve any combination of two or more men, women and children....

  • Curb-stomp
    Curb-stomp
    Curb-stomping is a violent assault in which the attacker forces the victim to lie down prone on the street and "bite the curb" , following which the attacker stomps on the back of the victim's head resulting in crushed teeth, a broken jaw and/or skull, and possibly death...

  • Common assault
    Common assault
    Common assault was an offence under the common law of England, and has been held now to be a statutory offence in England and Wales. It is committed by a person who causes another person to apprehend the immediate use of unlawful violence by the defendant. It was thought to include battery...


External links