People often group two charges -- assault and battery -- together as one charge. Although these charges are similar, they aren't the same thing. The main difference is that battery doesn't require harmful or offensive contact, but assault does. That is, a threat to harm someone could be considered battery, but it wouldn't be assault until the person is hit or touched.
What are the elements of assault?
There are two elements that must be present for an assault. The first is that there is an intent to do harm or cause offensive contact. The second element is that the offensive contact or harm actually occurred. For the purpose of assault, the contact doesn't necessarily have to be physical if the contact induces apprehension.
What is apprehension?
For the purpose of an assault, a victim who feels apprehension is aware that harm is likely. An example of this would be if someone points a gun at a person while threatening to shoot. Even if the gun is unloaded, the person could be charged with assault as long as the intended victim saw the gun. The gun would make the person feel apprehension, which would likely deprive the victim of a personal right or liberty in a harmful way.
Determining a defense strategy to use against an assault charge requires an investigation into the case. Once the evidence is examined and your side of the story is discussed, determining defense options will be possible. Then, deciding on a defense strategy and building the case from there are the next steps that must be taken.
Source: FindLaw, "Elements of Assault," accessed Oct. 28, 2015