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A boyfriend and his girlfriend were arguing. The girlfriend picked up a small rock, approached her boyfriend, and held the rock as if she was about to throw it at him. While the girlfriend had no intention of actually throwing the rock, and mistakenly believed that she was so far away that the rock could not reach her boyfriend anyway, she threatened to hit him with the rock if he did not apologize to her for his wrongdoing. The boyfriend was frightened and apologized.
In an assault action brought by the boyfriend against the girlfriend, will the boyfriend prevail?
(A) No, because the girlfriend had no intention of throwing the rock.
(B) Yes, even though the girlfriend’s threat was conditional.
(C) Yes, if when the girlfriend held the rock, the boyfriend actually was within striking distance of the girlfriend.
(D) No, since mere words cannot constitute an assault.
The Answer is : B.
A conditional threat still may constitute an assault when accompanied by a display of force. Thus, choice (B) is the correct answer. Similar to a criminal law assault, if the defendant states that she will inflict an injury unless the victim complies with a certain condition, an assault is committed. Wayne R. LaFave, Criminal Law Â§16.3(c) at 87182 (5th ed. 2010). This is quite different from non-assault conditional language, such as “if you were not such an old man, I would hit you,” which is not accompanied by a display of force.
Intent to throw the rock is not required if the defendant intended to create apprehension in the plaintiff, so choice (A) is incorrect.
Actual ability to cause harm is not required, as long as there is an apparent present ability sufficient to cause apprehension, so choice (C) is incorrect.
Words alone are not enough to cause an assault, but here the words were combined with an apparent present ability and intent to act. Thus, choice (D) is not the correct answer.
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