Merriam-Webster defines assault as: “a threat or attempt to inflict offensive physical contact or bodily harm on a person (as by lifting a fist in a threatening manner) that puts the person in immediate danger of or in apprehension.” This means that no actual contact must occur between the two individuals. Let’s say that John threatens to punch Joe, while Joe reasonably believes that John can punch him. This is enough to say that John has assaulted Joe. If John actually punches Joe, this become battery. Though the two terms have different meanings, they are often used together in court.
Criminal vs. Civil Charges
A criminal case leads to probation or jail time if the defendant is found guilty. In a criminal case, the assaulted individual serves as a witness. In a civil case, the assaulted individual is the plaintiff. A civil case is used to seek monetary compensation for injuries. These injuries can include property damage, doctor bills, loss of work, therapy, pain and suffering, and, in some cases, punitive damages.
There are three main defenses to assault which may allow the defendant to win the case. These defenses are:
- Consent- this is most often used during sports. If an individual consents to play football, it can reasonably be assumed that they have provided consent to be tackled during the football game.
- Privilege- there are cases in which the defendant may claim privilege. If a police officer must use force to restrain an individual, they may reasonably avoid assault charges through privilege.
- Self-defense- if the defendant can claim self-defense, they will likely avoid assault charges. The action taken in self-defense must be reasonable. For example, if John punches Joe, Joe could reasonably restrain him. However, Joe would not reasonably be expected to shoot John after being punched.
Should You Sue?
Whether you should pursue a civil case depends on the situation. If you have been hospitalized, it is usually worth it to pursue monetary compensation. However, pain and suffering can be difficult to prove, so those cases may not be worth pursuing. Similarly, when the defendant has no assets, there is nothing that can be recovered.
Assault cases can be extremely difficult due to the wide array of circumstances and the variation of laws between states. To obtain superior legal representation for your assault case, contact us at LeBaron & Jensen today.