Assertions are removed at runtime unless you explicitly specify to "enable assertions" when compiling your code. Java Assertions are not to be used on production code and should be restricted to private methods (see Exception vs Assertion), since private methods are expected to be known and used only by the developers. Also
assert will throw AssertionError which extends
Exception, and which normally indicates you have a very abnormal error (like "OutOfMemoryError" which is hard to recover from, isn't it?) you are not expected to be able to treat.
Remove the "enable assertions" flag, and check with a debugger and you'll see that you will not step on the IllegalArgumentException throw call... since this code has not been compiled (again, when "ea" is removed)
It is better to use the second construction for public/protected methods, and if you want something that is done in one line of code, there is at least one way that I know of. I personally use the Spring Framework's
Assert class that has a few methods for checking arguments and that throw "IllegalArgumentException" on failure. Basically, what you do is:
Assert.notNull(obj, "object was null");
... Which will in fact execute exactly the same code you wrote in your second example. There are a few other useful methods such as
hasLength in there.
I don't like writing more code than necessary, so I'm happy when I reduce the number of written lines by 2 (2 lines > 1 line) :-)