While typically associated with crime, assault can mean either physical or threatened harm paired with ability to cause it. Assault can either be classified as a civil or criminal liability based on whether the threatened action was carried out. If intent to frighten was proven, the victim may sue to receive monetary damages for emotional compensation. An assault is considered “aggravated” when the intent is to do more serious damage such as to kill, rob, or rape the victim.
Assault is intentionally attempting or threatening to cause physical damages with a clear ability to follow through. However, battery is the the actual act of inflicting bodily harm to a person. Battery can even be minor contact if the action was considered violent or offensive to the victim. The term “assault and battery” refers to an incident where attempting or threatening to injure and actual harm to the victim are both present.
Civil assault cases do not require physical contact to have occurred as long as there is a threat of violence causing reasonable fear. When physical contact has also occurred it is then considered assault and battery and prosecuted as a criminal case. Battery can still be tried without an assault charge if the victim was unaware of the present threat. Laws on these subjects can vary on a state-by-state basis, but Pennsylvania follows the majority in this case.