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20 Clev. St. L. Rev. 75 (1971)
Threats as Criminal Assault

handle is hein.journals/clevslr20 and id is 83 raw text is: Threats as Criminal Assault
Ranelle A. Gamble*
T HE MORES, GROUP SANCTIONS and religious ethics of a society attempt
to regulate interactions between humans as harmoniously as pos-
sible. But it sometimes requires the intervention of formal legal au-
thority to maintain a semblance of peace in the community by punish-
ing disapproved conduct. All too frequently, social interaction leads to
conduct that is tortious or criminal. Early in its history, the common
law found it imperative to acknowledge and define an individual's in-
terest in his personal integrity, physical safety and mental tranquility.
The law formulated the legal rules of assault to protect this particular
interest when it is wrongfully interfered with by another.' In this
latter half of a nerve-wracking twentieth century, it is becoming nec-
essary to revive the early concepts of common law assault, and under
certain circumstances,2 to redress abusive and insulting language.
Any principle of common law, particularly one concerned with the
control of human behavior, has social implications, and such principle,
whether dealing with a tort or a crime, must advance or retreat ac-
cording to the social need.3 Outrageous behavior, encompassing overt
antisocial acts and abusive language, is once again being recognized by
the authorities to be a legal as well as a social problem.
Assault as a Tort and a Crime
Assault can be a tort, a crime, or both simultaneously if the de-
fendant's act falls within the scope of liability for both. Manslaughter,
as a form of homicide, is, of course, punished as a crime. Manslaughter
is the result, or harm, of an act defined by statute or common law
as criminal, or as otherwise unlawful. The following questions then
arise: Can manslaughter be the result of a mere tort?; Is the death of
the victim limited to the legal liability for wrongful death, essentially
* B.A., New York University; Second-year student at Cleveland State University
College of Law.
1 See Prosser, Law of Torts, § 3, Social Engineering (3d ed. 1964).
2 Wade, Tort Liability for Abusive and Insulting Language, 4 Vand. L. Rev. 63, 101
(1950): A rule to this effect would merely be restating a condition which existed in
the days of the very beginning of the common law, when certain vituperative names
were treated in the same way as assaults and when the law of defamation sought to
redress insults as well as to protect reputation. It may seem retrogressive, a return
to more barbaric times, to restore the rules of the middle ages. Instead, it has been
called a mark of a more advanced civilization that tort liability affords protection
against abusive language.
3 Reckless, The Crime Problem, C. 2 at 19 (3d. ed. 1961). It is the scheme of social
values current in any society that dictates the importance or unimportance or the
sacredness or profanity of any activity in society .... The social values assigned to
different kinds of behavior vary in time and place, and this is true of behavior that
becomes defined as criminal in our criminal laws.

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