Under English common law, assault and battery were the two crimes that described violent conduct toward another person. Assault was the threat of physical conduct. Battery was the physical conduct itself. So under this definition, throwing a punch was the assault; making contact was the battery. Some states still use this definition of assault and battery.
In New Hampshire, assault is any sort of unprivileged physical contact against another person. The seriousness of the charge is determined by the defendant's intent, and/or by the degree of injury to the alleged victim.
First Degree Assault; Second Degree Assault
An assault that results in bodily injury can be charged as second degree assault, a felony. If the injury is serious, it may be first degree assault, which is also a felony. Additionally, if a deadly weapon is involved in the assault, the assault is a felony. A felony level assault is very serious because, if found guilty, the defendant can be sentenced to state prison.
Simple Assault is a misdemeanor. Many people think that to be guilty of assault, they must hit or use force against another person. However, to be found guilty of simple assault, all that the State needs to prove is that there was some form of touching or contact, however minimal, and that the defendant did not have permission or consent to touch the other person.
Domestic Assault & Assault on a Police Officer
Sometimes police will charge a person with a "domestic assault" or "assault on a police officer." These are not specific statutory offense, and this is usually a way of signaling (sometimes in a biased way) something about the nature of the charge.
Other Consequences if Convicted
If convicted of a domestic assault, there are serious collateral consequence which affect a person's ability to own or possess firearms, obtain certain employment, and, in the case of non-citizens, remain in or re-enter the United States.
Many of the terms used in the assault statute have specific legal definitions. Additionally, the defendant's intent -- i.e., whether the person was acting purposely as opposed to recklessly -- often influences the seriousness of the charge. If you have been accused of committing an assault, contact us. We will review the charge and evidence with you.