There are TWO DIFFERENT WAYS that the state or a police officer can CHARGE YOU WITH ASSAULT. The FIRST way is conduct that most people would call assault – HITTING OR STRIKING SOMEONE and causing him or her harm. The statute provides that a person is guilty of assault if that person “intentionally inflicts or attempts to inflict bodily harm upon another.”
The SECOND way to be charged with assault involves less obvious conduct. The statute provides that whoever “commits an act with intent to CAUSE FEAR in another of immediate bodily harm or death” is guilty of assault. This means that if the police are called because someone reported a disturbance or “fight”, they aren’t just investigating whether anyone threw punches, they are also investigating whether the actions made by any of the parties in the course of the “fight” made anyone in FEAR OF HARM.
The FEAR OF HARM prong of the assault statute is particularly difficult in DOMESTIC SITUATIONS. The police officers will often take ANY affirmative answer to “Were you afraid?” as FEAR OF HARM and WILL ARREST. Sometimes, the person who said that they were afraid was not necessarily afraid of harm, but afraid their partner may hurt themselves or destroy property. Often, this clarification question is not asked by the police or ignored if the reporting party appears upset.