Are Verbal Threats Assault? (2022)

Assault is a cause of action in tort law that can be used as the basis of a civil case. Depending on the circumstances, assault is also an act found in criminal law that can be used to charge and prosecute a defendant to a criminal case. Regardless of the type of lawsuit, the definition of assault remains the same. However, the exact definition of assault for both civil and criminal purposes varies by jurisdiction.

In general, assault is typically defined as an intentional act that places another person in reasonable apprehension of immediate harm or offensive contact. In other words, the person being assaulted must be aware that they will soon be subject to imminent harm for the act to be considered assault.

Also, assault is often confused with battery since the two are typically lumped together; especially, in a criminal case. Thus, it is important to keep in mind that an assault does not require the use of any physical force, but it does require the victim to recognize that they are about to suffer an injury at the hands of the assaulter.

Can Verbal Threats Be Assault?

As briefly mentioned above, the definitions and requirements to prove assault will depend on the laws of a specific state. However, the general rule of thumb is that verbal threats are not usually considered an act of assault.

A verbal threat is a statement made to someone else in which the speaker declares that they intend to cause the listener harm, loss, or punishment. Although this definition sounds very similar to the definition for assault, simply uttering threatening words to another person will most likely not count as an assault.

(Video) How Should You Deal With Verbal Threats

However, a verbal threat may become an act of assault in certain situations. For example, if a person threatens another individual by saying they are going to hit them, these words alone will probably not qualify as an assault. On the other hand, if the person recites these words while wielding a baseball bat, then this could be viewed as a verbal assault.

Basically, a verbal threat becomes a crime when:

  • The speaker threatens to harm or kill the listener or the listener’s family;
  • The speaker’s threat is specific and unambiguous;
  • The listener has reasonable belief and fear that the speaker will carry their threat out; and
  • The speaker communicates the threat either verbally, in writing, or through electronic correspondence (e.g., email, text message, etc.).

When these elements are met and the circumstances suggest that a verbal threat is serious, a person can press charges for verbal threats. The person who was threatened can do this by calling the police and having them file an incident report. From there the police will conduct an investigation. If there is enough evidence, the police will submit the report to a local prosecutor who will then determine whether to press criminal charges against the individual.

What Are Some Examples of When Acts and Circumstances Constitute Assault?

The speaker’s actions and the circumstances surrounding an incident are crucial when determining whether or not an assault occurred.

(Video) 201606221918 LD65KRX assault (dangerous pass, 0cm), chat, verbal threats

For example, suppose two patrons are having an intense argument while drinking at a sports bar. One of them tells the other they are going to throw them off the roof for insulting their team. If the bar is located on the ground floor and both patrons are sitting on stools inside the bar, then this likely will not constitute assault. However, if they were standing on the roof of the bar during the argument, then this would be considered assault.

Continuing with the above example, suppose that instead of threatening to throw them off the roof, one of the patrons said they were going to smash their beer over the other patron’s head and said it while they were brandishing their glass in a threatening manner. The additional action of waving their glass would constitute assault.

As a final example, now suppose the two bar patrons are friends. One of the friends turns to the other and says they are going to kill them, but smiles or laughs after making the statement. Even though they threatened to kill them, their relationship and lack of intimidation in this scenario makes it less likely that their actions would qualify as assault.

Can There Be Assault If I Think I Can Safely Run Away from Harm?

Remember, to meet the standard definition of assault a situation requires there to be “a reasonable apprehension of imminent harm.” As such, once a person experiences an assault, it does not matter whether they can safely run away from the impending harm. The assault occurs the moment they become aware that they are in danger of being injured or harmed.

(Video) Identifying Abuse: Non-Verbal Threats

Can There Be an Assault If the Act Was Meant to Be a Practical Joke?

Although it will depend on the context and the people involved in the scenario, an act may still be considered an assault even if it was meant to be a practical joke. The reason why this is possible is due to one of the elements of proof in assault cases.

In a criminal assault case, the prosecutor must prove that a defendant intended their actions or behavior to create a reasonable apprehension of immediate harm or offensive contact to the victim. Thus, it is easy to imagine how this particular element can cause a practical joke to go seriously wrong.

For instance, suppose someone is having a non-themed birthday party. As a practical joke, two of their friends decide to show up wearing scary masks and brandishing weapons. If none of the guests realize who they are and they end up frightening everyone at the party, then they could be charged with assault if someone calls the police and reports the incident.

What are the Consequences of Verbal Assault?

There are a number of legal consequences that a person can face for committing an act of verbal assault. Some of these include having to pay criminal fines, being put on probation, and paying monetary damages to a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit.

(Video) How To Deal With Threatening People in Public - Jocko Willink

Just because a person is not convicted, does not mean they will avoid being charged and arrested for verbal harassment. An act of verbal harassment may lead to being arrested when the harasser makes repeated remarks that constitute verbal abuse.

Additionally, a person may also have to go to jail for verbal threats. If a defendant to a verbal threat case is charged with a misdemeanor and convicted, they can face up to one year in jail. In cases that result in a felony conviction for making verbal threats, the defendant may face a significant prison sentence, ranging from at least one year or longer.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Assault Issues?

Assault can have serious legal consequences, even in instances where someone’s actions were intended to be a practical joke. Thus, if you are facing assault charges, then you should contact a local criminal defense attorney immediately.

On the other hand, if you have been assaulted and wish to sue your assaulter for civil damages, you should consult a local personal injury lawyer for further legal guidance. An experienced personal injury lawyer can explain how the laws in your state apply to assault cases, can determine whether or not you have a viable claim, and can help you receive the best outcome for your case.


In addition, your lawyer can discuss what potential remedies you may be able to recover if your case is successful, and also can provide representation in court or assist with negotiations during a settlement conference.


Can assaulting someone with words amount to an assault? ›

Many people believe that assault refers only to a violent physical attack. However, under the Criminal Code, an act can be considered an assault even if there is no actual physical contact. However, words alone cannot be an assault.

Can you go to jail for verbal assault? ›

This means that the answer to the question, “Can you go to jail for verbal abuse?” is yes — if the abuse qualifies as assault. However, it's much more likely that a person found guilty of verbal assault will receive criminal fines and probation instead.

Is threatening someone verbally a crime? ›

A verbal threat becomes a criminal threat under the following circumstances: The threat indicates that another will suffer imminent physical harm. The threat is directed towards a witness that's scheduled to testify in a court action. The threat is specific.

Is shouting at someone assault? ›

Simple assault is any criminal act that involves violence. It can possibly include someone yelling to intimidate or threatening another person or even gesturing with their hand can be an assault without touching or causing any injuries.

Do words negate assault? ›

Words alone may not amount to assault, there needs to be some overt manifestation- Tuberville V Savage, R V Light. Words can negate assault- Tuberville V Savage. Section 252 only becomes an offence when it is unjustified and unlawful. The apprehension of fear in the victim is the deciding factor in assault.

Can threatening words constitute an assault? ›

Words alone are usually not enough to commit an assault, and some sort of physical action is typically required. For example, threatening to punch someone is usually not an assault. However, making the threats and then approaching the person in a threatening manner does qualify as assault.

Can you be convicted by word of mouth? ›

Yes, you can be arrested based only on the word of another. I often hear my clients refer to the verbal claim of another person as "hearsay" or "he said, she said." They are shocked and upset that someone can make up a story about what they did and have them arrested.

What do you do when someone is verbally attacking you? ›

Taking the Sting out of Insulting Words
  1. Allow yourself to ruminate in a healthy way. It's normal to replay upsetting events in your mind to get a handle on them. ...
  2. Identify the other person's (possible) motive. ...
  3. Turn the spotlight inward. ...
  4. Know what words really are. ...
  5. Own your vulnerability. ...
  6. Resolve to speak up next time.

Can you hit someone if they provoke you? ›

Can you hit someone if they provoke you? Just because someone insulted you or said something rude or mean doesn't mean you have the right to hit them. However, if physical harm is imminent or they've already hit you once, you may have a legal right to self defence and can hit them back.

What are examples of verbal threats? ›

What is verbal abuse in a relationship? Verbal abuse is a form of emotional abuse where someone uses their words to invoke fear in another person and gain control over them. 1 Types of verbal abuse include name-calling, criticizing, gaslighting, and threatening.

What constitutes verbal assault? ›

A person commits the offence of uttering threats when they, in any manner, knowingly utter, convey or cause a person to receive a threat.

What is the punishment for verbal abuse? ›

The punishment provided in the code for committing the offence under this section is imprisonment for 2 years or fine, or may include both. It is a non-cognizable as well as a bailable offence, triable by any Magistrate.

What are the 3 types of assault? ›

The Different Types of Assault Charges
  • Simple Assault. Simple assault is assault at its most basic level. ...
  • Assault Causing Bodily Harm. Assault causing bodily harm applies when someone sustains noticeable injuries. ...
  • Assault With a Weapon. ...
  • Aggravated Assault.

What is considered threatening behaviour? ›

Threat, criminal threatening (or threatening behavior) is the crime of intentionally or knowingly putting another person in fear of bodily injury.

What is classed as threatening behaviour? ›

intimidation or intentional behaviour that causes another person to fear injury or harm.

What is justifiable assault? ›

A person is justified in using physical force against another when and to the extent that a reasonable person would believe it necessary to prevent what a reasonable person would believe is an attempt or commission by the other person of theft or criminal damage involving tangible movable property under his possession ...

What are the essential elements of assault? ›

What are the essential elements of an Assault?
  • Physical Contact. Mere violent and abusive language does not constitute an assault. ...
  • Intent. Ability to Commit a Battery. ...
  • Apprehension of a Battery. ...
  • Intent to Cause Apprehension. ...
  • Apprehension of Imminent Harm.

Which of the following is not an ingredient of assault? ›

The intention of the act of A was not to create apprehension or fear. Hence it is not an assault.

Does assault have to be physical? ›

No physical injury is required, but the actor must have intended to cause a harmful or offensive contact with the victim and the victim must have thereby been put in immediate apprehension of such a contact. “Intention” in the context of assault, means that the act is not accidental, but motive is immaterial.

What is the meaning of verbal threats? ›

Verbal threats are a type of crime in which one person threatens another individual with immediate physical harm.

What defines threatening language? ›

Includes words, actions, or behaviors that reflects a serious intention to instill fear in another person or the intent to cause physical or mental harm that could lead to psychological or physical harm of another person.

What happens if there is not enough evidence? ›

Insufficient evidence usually results in dismissal of the case after the prosecution or the plaintiff has completed his/her introduction of evidence or, if on appeal, reversal of the judgment by the trial court.

Can you be found guilty without evidence? ›

Insufficient evidence—if you think that the prosecutor has not proven you committed the crime—and if you are sure the judge or jury don't think you are guilty—then you do not need to present your defence. But if the judge or jury do find you guilty, then you cannot re-open your case.

What evidence is needed to be charged? ›

Police officers usually make arrests based only on whether they have good reason (probable cause) to believe a crime has been committed. By contrast, prosecutors can file formal charges only if they believe that they can prove a suspect guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Can you defend yourself against verbal abuse? ›

Relax your body, do not appear tense, frightened, scared, or angry. Do not provide extensive explanations to the abuser; they will not listen anyway. Do not use vague or hypothetical situations in your comments to an abuser. Do not offer answers for the abuser to continue their verbal assault.

What is it called when someone verbally attacks you? ›

Verbal abuse (also known as verbal aggression, verbal attack, verbal violence, verbal assault, psychic aggression, or psychic violence) is a type of psychological/mental abuse that involves the use of oral, gestured, and written language directed to a victim.

Can you retaliate when assaulted? ›

For example, a person who is attacked may fight back, but may not necessarily use deadly force. A person who sees an incapacitated person in danger of being sexually assaulted may intervene to protect the person, but may not pull the person to safety and then attack the assailant.

Can you punch someone if they spit on you? ›

The Elements of Assault

It may be that the "spitter" had no intention to break the law or hurt the person he spit on (or at), but because spitting on someone can be considered an application of force, i.e, making contact with another person in an offensive manner, it qualifies as a simple assault.

Can you hit someone if they ask you to? ›

A person can use physical force in self-defense, if necessary and proportional.

What is considered an assault? ›

Assault is a crime that involves using force against someone without that person's consent. For example, throwing an object at someone, punching, or scratching people without their consent is a crime and can have legal consequences.

What is classed as assault? ›

An assault is any act (and not mere omission to act) by which a person intentionally or recklessly causes another to suffer or apprehend immediate unlawful violence. The term assault is often used to include a battery, which is committed by the intentional or reckless application of unlawful force to another person.

What is an example of common assault? ›

Case example: A person throwing a wine bottle at another, and misses, will be an assault. A person who uses a dog as a threat only, being an intention that the dog bite, but does not do so, will be an assault.

What is a Section 47 assault? ›

Section 47 Assault – Actual Bodily Harm (ABH)

The offence is committed when a person assaults another, thereby causing Actual Bodily Harm (ABH). This can mean a bruise or a minor graze.

Can someone press charges without proof? ›

In general, you cannot be charged without evidence, but many people take this to mean physical evidence. In the absence of physical evidence, you can still receive drug charges if you had control over an illegal substance or had the intent to sell or distribute that substance, even if you did not physically possess it.

What are the 3 elements of assault? ›

Therefore, Assault has three elements: intent, apprehension of a harmful contact, and. causation.

What are the 3 types of assault? ›

The Different Types of Assault Charges
  • Simple Assault. Simple assault is assault at its most basic level. ...
  • Assault Causing Bodily Harm. Assault causing bodily harm applies when someone sustains noticeable injuries. ...
  • Assault With a Weapon. ...
  • Aggravated Assault.

What is the lowest level assault charge? ›

Misdemeanor assaults are the least serious among assault and battery crimes and usually don't involve serious injury. This crime might be referred to as simple assault in your state.

Can you be convicted by word of mouth? ›

Yes, you can be arrested based only on the word of another. I often hear my clients refer to the verbal claim of another person as "hearsay" or "he said, she said." They are shocked and upset that someone can make up a story about what they did and have them arrested.

Is finger pointing assault? ›

Thus, for example, poking your finger at someone's chest could be an assault. Assault does not require that the touching cause pain or injury of any kind. In fact, since assault only requires the attempt ("present ability"), no actual touching is required to complete the commission of this crime.

What are the proofs of assault? ›

To establish Common Assault the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond reasonable doubt: You assaulted the victim; and. Intentionally or recklessly caused another person to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence.

Does assault have to be physical? ›

No physical injury is required, but the actor must have intended to cause a harmful or offensive contact with the victim and the victim must have thereby been put in immediate apprehension of such a contact. “Intention” in the context of assault, means that the act is not accidental, but motive is immaterial.

What is the difference between common assault and assault? ›

Actual bodily harm (ABH)

ABH is committed when a person assaults another which results in injury. 'Assault' bears the same meaning as it does for common assault. The difference between ABH and common assault is that ABH requires a degree of injury whereas common assault does not.

Will I go to jail for first time ABH? ›

If you're wondering whether you'll go to jail for your first ABH offence, the answer is quite likely to be no, but specialist legal advice should be taken in all cases to get a more accurate answer.

Can police prosecute if victim doesn't press charges UK? ›

Contrary to what most people think, the police can issue charges even if the victim asks them not to go forward. If the police charged you even though the alleged victim doesn't want to pursue a criminal complaint, you still need an experienced and dedicated criminal defense lawyer on your side.

Can I refuse a section 47? ›

A child who is of sufficient age and understanding may refuse some or all of the medical assessment, though refusal can potentially be overridden by a court. Wherever possible the permission of a parent should be sought for children under sixteen prior to any medical assessment and/or other medical treatment.


1. How to React if Someone Wants to Fight You
2. Verbal Assault - Learn (1986) FULL ALBUM
3. Word Manipulations of a Narcissist #9: Making Direct Threats
(Soul GPS)
4. What is a verbal threat of violence
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5. Verbal Threats of Violence
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6. How to Respond to Verbal Bullying
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