a charge of assault vs. three charges of assault

Allegro molto

Senior Member

A. The accused, Dorothy Jackson, was being held in the Tarrant County Jail on a charge of assault.
B. Benton appeared in court yesterday on three charges of assault.
(from Longman Language Activator)

What is the difference in meaning between "a charge of assault" and "three charges of assault"?

Is it related to the number of laws applied?

Thank you

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  • sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Normally, in a sentence like this, I'd expect to see "charged with three counts of assault." See HERE, for example.


    • 2 a point for discussion or consideration.
      • ■ Law a separate charge in an indictment.
    I would not expect a person to appear once to face three separate indictments.

    Inasmuch as the only Tarrant County I can find is in the state of Texas, I'm presuming an AE context.
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    American English
    We only know from the context supplied that Jackson was charged in Tarrant County; Benton might have been charged anywhere. In any case, I think an American headline writer or journalist might use "charges" instead of "counts" just to keep the legal jargon to a minimum. Benton might have attacked three different people, but sometimes prosecutors are able to make multiple crimes out of one act. Usually, however, that's something like assault with a deadly weapon, carrying a concealed handgun, and possessing a handgun without a license. So "three charges of assault" probably mean that Benton did attack three other people. The charges might all actually have been "assault and battery," if he actually struck or injured three people, but if he just took a swing with his fist and missed three different people, he could be charged three times with simple "assault."


    Senior Member
    American English
    Three counts of assault can be against three different people (and if they happened together, they could all be charged together), or it could be one act charged three different ways; for example, intent to commit bodily harm, knowingly disregarding the risk that the act would cause bodily harm, and assault with a weapon.

    Edit: crossposted with Fabulist.
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