In criminal and civil law, assault is a threat of imminent harmful or offensive contact with a person, or a threat to do so. [1] It is distinct from battery, which refers to the actual achievement of such contact.

An assault is carried out by a threat of bodily harm coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm. It is both a crime and a tort and, therefore, may result in either criminal and/or civil liability. Generally, the common law definition is the same in criminal and tort law. There is, however, an additional criminal law category of assault consisting of an attempted but unsuccessful battery. The term is often confused with battery, 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. [2] [3] Assault in many US jurisdictions[ which?] and Scotland is defined more broadly still as any intentional physical contact with another person without their consent; but in England and Wales and in most[ citation needed] other common law jurisdictions in the world, this is defined instead as battery. Some jurisdictions have incorporated the definition of civil assault into the definition of the crime making it a criminal assault intentionally to cause another person to apprehend a harmful or offensive contact.

Related definitions


Assault usually accompanies battery if the assailant both threatens to make unwanted contact and then carries through with this threat. See common assault. The elements of battery are (1) a volitional act [4] (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. [5] 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.

Aggravated assault

Aggravated assault is, in some jurisdictions, a stronger form of assault, usually using a deadly weapon. [6] A person has committed an aggravated assault when that person attempts to:

  • cause serious bodily injury to another person with a deadly weapon [7]
  • have sexual relations with a person who is under the age of consent
  • cause bodily harm by recklessly operating a motor vehicle during road rage; often referred to as either vehicular assault or aggravated assault with a motor vehicle.

Aggravated assault can also be charged in cases of attempted harm against police officers or other public servants.

Other Languages
العربية: اعتداء
Deutsch: Misshandlung
español: Asalto
فارسی: تعرض
한국어: 폭행죄
עברית: תקיפה
Kreyòl ayisyen: Atak
latviešu: Piekaušana
Nederlands: Mishandeling
日本語: 暴行罪
polski: Pobicie
Simple English: Assault
svenska: Misshandel