Criminal Assault Law and Legal Definition

Criminal assault is an assault for which the assailant may be criminally prosecuted. Such an assault is considered a crime and not a tort. This term isolates the legal elements that give rise to criminal liability even though the act might also have been tortuous.

An attack by physical force on a person for which the attacker is liable to criminal prosecution is considered a criminal assault.

The following is an example of a case law explaining the term:

At common law, "assault" had two meanings. One meaning was criminal assault, which is an attempt to commit a battery. For example, a defendant swings his fist to hit another person and misses. This is an assault but not a battery because there is no physical contact with the victim. It is an attempted battery. It is an assault even though the intended victim may not have apprehended or known about the danger of the infliction of immediate bodily harm or offensive contact.

The second meaning was the common law tort of assault which is an act that puts another person in reasonable apprehension of immediate bodily harm. The tort of assault includes threats to inflict bodily harm to another person coupled with the present ability to do so. The threat or display of force must be sufficient to give a reasonable person cause to fear or expect the infliction of immediate bodily injury. [ United States v. Golston, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61170, 5-6 (D. Mich. 2010)].