In the U.S. legal system and other common law jurisdictions, intentional torts are actions which are intended to injure another person or interfere with their rights to enjoy their private property, including real estate and personal possessions. The main intentional torts include assault and battery, trespassing, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.
Intentional torts against people include illegal actions which involve some form of injury to a person. Legal action may be justified even if the injury in question is not medically serious. Pearson Education explains that “when we hear the word assault, we tend to think of a harmful physical act.” However, in an assault case, a plaintiff must establish only that the defendant threatened to inflict such harm, that the threat was perceived as credible by the plaintiff, and that the defendant could have or actually did carry out what they threatened to do. Similarly, a charge of battery can apply to any unwanted and offensive touching.
Another common form of intentional tort against a person is false imprisonment, which covers crimes in which the accused tries to restrain the victim from leaving an area or a room without legal authority to do so. Those charged with false imprisonment are not necessarily police or prison officers – indeed, as long as these officers act in good faith, they are generally not considered to be falsely imprisoning an accused person even if that person is later found not guilty of any crime. Instead, it refers to anyone using physical force or abusing their authority in order to restrict another person’s freedom of movement.
A separate but related category of intentional torts is known as defamation of character, which involves making false statements in an attempt to harm the reputation of a person or organization. Defamation is referred to as libel when the false statements are published, and as slander when the statements are spoken aloud. In these cases, a person is considered to have suffered harm to their social reputation, as opposed to their body.
The second group of main intentional torts involve interfering with a person’s rightful enjoyment of their private property, including real estate and personal possessions. Trespass laws vary between jurisdictions. The most common form of trespass involves entering another person’s or company’s property without permission. However, trespass rules may also cover the unlawful use of property like clothing or furniture, which are known in legal terms as “chattel.” Many states and countries also have nuisance laws banning interference with other people (such as excessively loud noise) or against the public in general, and these laws may also be referred to as intentional torts.
People who have been accused of committing intentional torts, or believe that they are the victims of these offences, may want to seek legal advice from a properly qualified lawyer who can give professional guidance relating to their specific circumstances. Intentional torts have several common defences, including consent (the person agreed in advance to put themselves in a position where they could be harmed) and defence (the action was committed at a time when they reasonably believed they were defending either themselves or someone else from imminent harm). The standard defence against a defamation charge is that the offensive remarks were truthful.