An assault is a crime that's defined in different ways, depending on the state. Under one approach, it involves intentionally making another person feel that they are about to be physically harmed, or trying to hit or strike someone but missing. Actually connecting is called a "battery." No actual physical injury is needed to establish assault under this approach.
Other states do away with the assault versus battery distinction, and describe an assault as attempting or succeeding in striking someone, and a battery as an actual blow.
For more information on assaults and batteries, and links to each state's approach to these crimes (including aggravated assaults and assaults with dangerous weapons), see Assault and Battery.
If you have been accused of assault, the first thing you should do is realize that this is a serious criminal offense and it should not be taken lightly. Defendants should never think that because they are innocent, they could never be found guilty. Many innocent people get convicted of crimes they did not commit. Therefore, it is important to take the necessary steps to defend yourself. These might include:
For information on the typical course of a criminal case, start with Criminal Law: Arrests, Defendants' Rights, & the Criminal Justice Process.
Sometimes people make false allegations of assault, for a variety of reasons. These might include:
A person falsely accused of committing a crime faces the same challenges as any criminal defendant and requires competent legal counsel. Skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers know their way around the criminal justice system and can navigate through the complex legal system on your behalf.