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Assault: Historical Common Law and Current Statute Essay

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Updated: May 2nd, 2022


Florida State is situated in the southeastern region of the United States, adjacent to Alabama and Georgia as well as the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Assault is considered a crime against persons in Florida and indeed throughout the world through the preconditions for assault may vary in different states and nations. For instance, in a jurisdiction such as New Zealand and Australia, assault is regarded as an act that causes another person to receive abrupt and personal violence.

However, in America and a majority of jurisdictions, the threat of violence caused by an abrupt show of force is also regarded as assault. This essay aims at looking at assault in Florida from a historical and modern perspective and also identifies how the threshold of assault has been defined with dynamism throughout history in the state of Florida. Laws as a reinforcement part of a justice system demands that all individuals be aware of and respect other people’s boundaries though it is possible to legally give consent for assault.

The elements of assault under historical common law

In the United States of America, the common law referred to assault in its different forms as a battery. The elements of battery are three, the first one being a volitional act depending on whether it is purposeful and intentional rather than reflexive or unintentional(Dressler, 2006). For instance, a person suffering from epilepsy hits his wife while suffering from a fit. Even though the contact causes harm to the wife, it would not amount to the battery since the act was unintentional (Ormerod, 2006).

The second element is that battery is accomplished with the intention of causing harmful or offensive contact with another person or in situations that make the certainty of such contact ample. The final element of battery is that which causes harmful or offensive contact (Bumgarner, 2004). Therefore, throwing a shoe to hit an individual is a battery if the shoe indeed hits the person and is an assault if the shoe misses.

The definition of assault under the historical common law, therefore, disregards the fact that the person may have been unaware that the shoe had been thrown at them (Bumgarner, 2004). Also, the state of Florida did include the description of civil assault as part of the definition of the crime (FBI, 2006).

It is the, therefore, a criminal assault to deliberately place another person in fear of harmful or offensive contact. Fear, according to the Florida state is the awareness of the possibility of assault; hence, fear is not an emotion rather is a perpetuated mental state.

The elements of the current Florida statute for assault

The elements of assault in modern American statutes, including Florida, are essentially two which cover all the aspects of assault. The first element is the effort to intentionally, consciously, or irresponsibly cause bodily injury to another. The additional element is the neglectfully causing of bodily injury to another using a deadly weapon. Also, Florida also defines assault as an attempt to threaten or actual threatening of another by causing the person to experience fear of impending severe bodily injury.

Consent is a complete defense to assault in Florida since some sports like boxing, mixed martial arts and medical procedures such as surgery require consent to take place. Another element of the current Florida statute for assault is the requirement for the offender and the victim to be human and hence it cannot be considered assault if a person violently injures an animal or if an animal injures a person (Dressler, 2006).

Also, there was the passing of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act in 2004 hence, an unborn child is regarded as a separate person in assault cases (Anon, 2009).

A further element is the conscious actions that are intended to instill the fear of violent bodily harm, which can either be immediate or forthcoming. Therefore, the action is vital where words have been used to constitute an assault.

For instance, it is considered assault when a person holding a weapon threatens another person with death regardless of whether they intend to follow up on their threat, a fact that is unknown to the victim (Ormerod, 2006). However, if the menacing words are not accompanied by the gun, the perpetrator cannot accomplish a threat, and hence, an assault has not occurred.

Comparison between the historical common law and the current state statute

Assault, according to the historical common law, was simplified because harm was generally physical (Bumgarner, 2004). For criminal liability to be evident, what needed to be identified were the harmful or offensive contact and the intention to carry out the act. The harmful or offensive contact was defined as the cause of physical or bodily injury while the intention was the premeditated thought that would make the perpetrator benefit directly or indirectly through assault (Anon, 2009).

The elements of assault in Florida have changed dramatically from historical common law to the current state statute with the foremost difference being the changing of battery to assault (Ormerod, 2006).

Elements of assault in the current state statute also differ in action from the historical common law since the elements in the statute have to be justified by the offender’s state of mind (FBI, 2006). The offender thus needs to deliberately cause harm to another either physically or mentally. In the tort of assault, the intent is identified if a sensible person is significantly convinced that particular consequences will result.

Reasons for the differences between the historical common law and the current state statute

Since its conception, the issue of assault has been shaped to focus on physical or bodily harm which has physical depiction. However, as the globe continued to make significant bounds in terms of personal space and liability, the assault has come to cover more ground (Dressler, 2006). For this reason, common assault and battery are two separate entities as offenses. Assault or common assault is committed if a person deliberately or irresponsibly causes another person to experience direct and unlawful personal physical harm.

Under the common law, the physical harm had to be violent but emerging human rights violations cause actions such as touching, stepping or stroking without consent to be considered assault under current state statutes (Bumgarner, 2004). Also, the terms assault and common assault frequently include the separate offense of battery even in legislative settings. The propinquity required has been expanded since the historical common law, giving individual space greater boundaries of property and family (Anon, 2009).

The prospect of physical harm is therefore in its essence assault hence the making of threats could be considered to be an assault if the victim believes that physical violence might be used against him within a given period in the future(Anon, 2009).

Consequently, making a silent phone call, or making statements such as “I know where you live” and “I know your family” are considered to be threats under the modern Florida state statutes (Ormerod, 2006). An aggravated assault is an assault that has any of the aggravating features which Congress has considered being severe enough to justify a higher penalty.


Assault is usually considered to be a minor crime in Florida though there are mitigating circumstances where assault becomes a felony such as when the victim is a law enforcement officer. Aggravated assault is an assault that causes actual bodily harm (ABH) such as the intentional breaking of another person’s extremities and is considered a more serious crime hence is handled as a felony.

With the intention of being a conspicuous element in both the common law and Florida state statutes, an argument that tries to eliminate intention is seriously weighed. For instance, if an offender argues that he or she was drunk while committing the assault and was not intending to do so, the defender will not still be able to justify their drunk state which was deliberately acquired unless they were intoxicated unintentionally.

The evident, current capacity to accomplish an unlawful effort to commit a violent injury upon another person is thus the baseline of assault. Simple assault, on the other hand, is determined by the perpetrator’s intention of injury upon the victim such as the violation of the victim’s personal space or touching the victim in a way considered improper.

Common law, however, requires that a physical threat such as a weapon be together with a verbal threat to constitute assault. However, reasonable fear of bodily injury has now taken the place of the evident threat and hence assault covers significantly greater ground as an offense.


Anon, J. (2009). . Web.

Bumgarner, J., B. (2004). Profiling and Criminal Justice in America: a Reference Handbook. California: ABC-CLIO.

Dressler, J., (2006). Understanding Criminal Law. New Jersey: LexisNexis.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). (2006) Crime in the United States 2004: Aggravated Assault. Web.

Ormerod, D., (2006). Smith & Hogan Criminal Law: Cases and Material. New York: Oxford University Press.

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