The primary factor that decides whether a charge qualifies as “assault” comes down to intention.
No Jokes Allowed?
It’s important to note here the impact of the intention in question refers more to the victim of the assault in question. If the person who committed the assault did so without the intention of causing harm, the victim can still claim assault due to the mental anguish they suffered from the engagement.
It’s possible for comments and actions intended as a joke or prank to qualify as assault, but the victim does not have the power to claim assault in every situation.
Physical Violence Not Required
Because intention plays such a big role in determining assault, it’s important to clarify that physical violence has never been considered a requirement for assault.
Whenever the term “assault” gets used in conversation, the term seems to carry the implication of physical violence. For example, a news story about a physical altercation between two parents at a school board hearing usually reports that one person “assaulted” the other during the hearing.
Generally, three other factors come into play when considering intention:
• How the person acted.
• The person’s intentions toward the alleged victim.
• How the victim interpreted the person’s actions.
However, verbal threats and acts of intimidation also qualify as acts of assault since the person committing the crime did so with the intention of causing fear or apprehension against the person they targeted. So even if the person who was assaulted was never touched, they could qualify as a victim of assault.
While “intent” does play the deciding factor in questions of assault, the victim still has to establish the act in question led them to reasonably fear they were in imminent danger. That requirement, referred to as “reasonable apprehension,” helps ensure victims have a strong argument for claiming assault.
Consider this hypothetical situation:
A candidate in a local election gets a phone call from an individual offering their services as a campaign manager. The individual has a deep voice and advertises their services as “Opponent Killers Incorporated.” Not understanding the message and intent of the caller, the candidate believes the caller has contacted them with the intent of threatening violence if they don’t drop out of the race. The candidate experiences a genuine fear for their personal safety.
In this situation, the candidate could claim they experienced “reasonable apprehension” from the phone call even though the caller had no intention of threatening or harming the candidate. The candidate would not need to prove they actually felt afraid for their lives, only they had a reasonable belief such an action could happen. And since the campaign manager chose to call their company “Opponent Killers Incorporated,” most reasonable people would come to the same conclusion as the candidate. Law enforcement would investigate and if warranted, charges could be brought.
In situations where the victim experienced unwanted physical contact, the term “assault” may be switched out with the term “aggravated battery.” The two terms can also be combined for “assault and battery.”
If you need a Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer, consider David Clarke of the Clarke Law Firm. If you have been accused or charged with assault, contact The Clarke Law firm at (615) 796-6299 for advice.