You know that you can be arrested for physically harming someone else. But what if you just threatened to do so?
For instance, say that you get into a vocal altercation with someone after the two of you have been drinking. You tell them that you’re going to knock them out and start walking toward them. Could you already be arrested, or would you have to go through with that threat and actually physically make contact? Does the fight have to happen for legal charges to exist?
The difference between assault and battery
You certainly can be arrested for threatening someone. This is generally known as assault. People tend to assume that assault means that physical contact is taking place, but this is not always the case. Simply making a credible threat of physical harm can qualify as assault, even if no contact is ever made. The other person just needs to have an honest fear that the threat is real.
If you do make contact, then it could escalate those charges to battery. Many people will say the term “assault and battery” as if it is a singular term or a singular charge. But it is not. It has two very separate charges. They are often used together because someone will make a realistic threat and then carry it out, so you could be facing assault and battery charges. But it’s also possible to face just one or the other, which is why you can be arrested without actually engaging in the fight.
If something like this happens to you, the ramifications can still be severe. Be sure you know exactly what legal options you have.