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A mere threat to harm is not an assault; however, a threat combined with a raised fist might be sufficient if it causes a reasonable apprehension of harm in the victim. In tort law, it can be specific intent—if the assailant intends to cause the apprehension of harmful or offensive contact in the victim—or general intent—if he or she intends to do the act that causes such apprehension.
In addition, the intent element is satisfied if it is substantially certain, to a reasonable person, that the act will cause the result.
At Common Law, an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact.In criminal law, the attempted battery type of assault requires a Specific Intent to commit battery.An intent to frighten will not suffice for this form of assault.Generally, the common law definition is the same in criminal and Tort Law.There is, however, an additional Criminal Law category of assault consisting of an attempted but unsuccessful Battery.
Statutory definitions of assault in the various jurisdictions throughout the United States are not substantially different from the common-law definition.