If the defendant approaches the victim and stands very close to him and waves his fists around in a menacing, threatening manner, and says, “I am going to punch you,” an assault occurred. Even if there is no physical contact, the victim reasonably believed that his life was in danger and that the defendant had the apparent present ability to physically harm him.
It is common to hear the words “assault and battery” together. Actually, however, battery is a separate and different offense than assault. Battery exists when the defendant actually makes nonconsensual, harmful physical contact with the victim. The batterer must intend to harm the victim – although there need not be an injury. If there is no intent, there is no battery. If there is unintentional physical contact, there is no intent, and no battery. Battery is also a criminal and civil offense and the defendant can face both criminal charges and monetary damages.
Assault is punishable as a criminal offense, which means that a conviction will result in a felony or misdemeanor charge, imprisonment and/or fines and other court sanctions. In addition to a criminal charge, an assault may result in a civil lawsuit by the victim. Assault is a tort, or a civil wrong committed upon a person. The victim will seek monetary damages in the civil tort case.
A clear and easy to understand definition of simple assault is provided in Title 16,
Section 16-5-20, Georgia Code:
A person commits the offense of simple assault when he or she either:
Physical Contact Is Not Required:
Contrary to popular belief, an assault does not require physical contact. What is required is an act on the defendant’s part that places the victim in fear of imminent danger or harm. If the victim believes that the defendant had the apparent present ability to inflict harm, then the elements of assault are satisfied. An assault must be accompanied by an act. Therefore, words, alone, without an act, do not satisfy the requirements for an assault.
An assault requires intent on the part of the defendant. This means that the defendant must deliberately and unjustifiably interfere with the victim in such a way that the victim is harmed or believes that s/he will be harmed by offensive conduct.
Assault is commonly charged as a criminal offense. Civil cases for monetary damages are less frequent, usually because the defendant does not have the resources to satisfy a monetary judgment. If a defendant does have resources, a victim is more likely to sue for assault.
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