Assault is the act of intentional and voluntary causing of reasonable apprehension of an immediate harmful or offensive contact. Actual physical contact is not necessary in assualt, rather assault needs only intent and the resulting apprehension. For example, weilding a knife or yelling the word “snake” to a person whom one knows is in fear of snakes, can be construed as assualt. Actual ability to carry out the apprehended contact is also not necessary because an assault can take place with a toy gun also.
Assault and battery are sometimes used interchangeably, but battery is an unjustified harmful or offensive touching of another. Battery also differs from assault in that it does not require the victim to be in apprehension of harm.
Assault developed in common law, meaning it developed through usage, custom, and judicial decisions rather than from legislative enactment. Modern-day assault statutes closely reflect the ancient common-law definition. An assault is both a crime and a tort. Therefore, an assailant may face both criminal and civil liability. A criminal assault conviction may result in a fine, imprisonment, or both. In a civil assault case, the victim may be entitled to monetary damages from the assailant.