Getting charged with a crime can be a scary ordeal–as is being the victim of one. Not knowing what a particular piece of legal jargon actually means can lead to a lot of confusion and even more anger at a system you might not fully understand. Assault and battery are two charges that sound similar and are often paired together when charges are levied against an individual accused of violence, but they describe different acts of aggression. What’s the difference between assault and battery?
First of all, it’s important to understand that charges have varying levels of categorization. Assault is legally defined as only the intent to cause somebody bodily harm. In other words, you might not actually carry out this threat–you just have the ability to do so. You might be charged with felony aggravated assault, which means you likely wanted to do more than just hurt a particular victim. You may have tried to rape or kill, and in such a case will likely see additional charges. Lesser charges of assault may be levied after a fistfight or bar fight, and are mostly misdemeanors.
Battery is different for a number of reasons. First of all, it involves contact. Simply threatening to injure someone and having the ability to carry out the threat isn’t enough to be charged with battery. A person charged must have actually committed unwarranted contact. Second of all, battery doesn’t provide for scope of the offense. While there is felony aggravated assault and a number of misdemeanor assault charges, battery falls under a single legal categorization.
This lack of scope means that you can commit battery in a number of different situations. Even though battery is defined as unwanted or offensive contact from one person to another, we all have offensive contact with one another from time to time. If you shop in a crowded mall, you’ll inevitably rub up against someone who isn’t all too thrilled with your body touching theirs. In that situation, battery has not occurred. Battery is intentional. The degree of the infraction does not matter. Placing your finger on someone’s head in order to intimidate is just as much battery as is crushing someone’s skull with a baseball bat.
Because assault and battery fall under different categorizations but can often describe the same illegal behavior, a person will often be charged with both assault and battery. This is the primary reason for the confusion. If you are the victim of either crime, then it’s important you discuss the event with a lawyer. If you have committed either crime and have either been arrested or will be shortly, then you should likewise discuss your options with an attorney.