1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Assault
ASSAULT (from Lat. ad, to or on, and saltare, to leap), in English law, “an attempt or offer with force or violence to do corporal hurt to another, as by striking at another with a stick or other weapon, or without a weapon, though the party misses his aim.” Notwithstanding ancient opinions to the contrary, it is now settled that mere words, be they ever so provoking, will not constitute an assault. Coupled with the attempt or threat to inflict corporal injury, there must in all cases be the means of carrying the threat into effect. A battery is more than a threat or attempt to injure the person of another; the injury must have been inflicted, but it makes no difference however small it may be, as the law does not “draw the line between degrees of violence,” but “totally prohibits the first and lowest stage of it.” Every battery includes an assault. A common assault is a misdemeanour, and is punishable by imprisonment with or without hard labour to the extent of one year, and if it occasions bodily harm, with penal servitude for three years, or imprisonment to the extent of two years, with or without hard labour. There are various different kinds of assaults which are provided against by particular enactments of parliament, such as the Offences against the Person Act 1861, the Prevention of Crimes Act 1871, &c.; and there are also certain aggravated assaults for which the punishment is severer than for common assault, as an assault with intent to murder, with intent to commit a rape, &c. In certain cases an assault and battery is sometimes justifiable, as in the case where a person in authority, as a parent or schoolmaster, inflicts moderate punishment upon a child, or in certain cases of self-defence, or in defence of one’s goods and chattels. An assault may be both a tort and a crime, giving a civil action for damages to the person injured, as well as being the subject of a criminal prosecution.
United States.—The general principles applicable throughout the United States are the same as in England. Riding a horse threateningly near a person; or riding a bicycle against another (Mercer v. Corbin, 117 Indiana Rep. 450); waking one from sleep to present a milk bill (Richmond v. Fiske, 160 Mass. 34), are assaults. A minor is liable for damages for an assault (Hildreth v. Hancock, 156 Illinois Rep. 618). In Texas it has been held that an assault with a knife is not necessarily an aggravated assault (Warren v. State, 3 S.W. 240), and an axe is not necessarily a “deadly weapon” with which to assault (Gladney v. State, 12 S.W. 868), and the State must prove that it would be likely to produce death or serious bodily injury (Melton v. State, 17 S.W. 257). Neither a pistol nor brass knuckles are necessarily deadly weapons; the State must show their size or manner of use in making the assault (Ballard v. State, 13 S.W. 674; Miles v. State, 5 S.W. 250). But in 1903 a pistol was held by the Texas Supreme Court to be a deadly weapon if not used simply as a club (Lockland v. State, 73 S.W. 1054), and the same court held in 1904 that a pistol is a deadly weapon (Pace v. State, 79 S.W. 531), and so the assault was an aggravated assault. In North Carolina it has been held that an axe is ex vi termini a “deadly weapon” (State v. Shields, 110 N.C. 49).