Martin & Kent, L.L.C. Martin & Kent, L.L.C.

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Assault vs. Battery: How Do They Differ?

In many legal contexts, assault and battery are used as interchangeable terms, but in actuality, they are two separate crimes. Assault/battery can be committed when someone tries to or actually strikes another person or acts in a threatening manner intended to cause a fear of harm in another person. They can be linked together when referring to criminal instances like a physical altercation, or used separately when considering a crime like sexual assault.

What is assault?

Assault is the attempt or threat of injury to another person without actually taking the steps to physically harm them. This not only refers to someone swinging at another person and missing, but can involve threatening words that cause another person to fear for their safety.

Assault can be defined as an intentional attempt to cause injury to another person where no contact has occurred. Key in proving assault is the requirement of action and intent. Someone that merely threatens another person may not be guilty of assault, but when those threats are accompanied by actions that cause a level of fear, they may be considered assault. Additionally, there must be a serious and conscious intent to harm another for it to be considered assault. Someone that accidentally commits an act is usually not charged with assault.

How is battery different from assault?

Battery is considered the deliberate, offensive, and harmful touching of another individual without their consent.

Battery can be charged if:

  • Intentional touching occurred;
  • The touching caused harm to another person; and
  • The victim gave no consent to be touched.

While assault involves a level of intent, someone that has been charged with battery does not need to intend to harm anyone, just seek to make contact with them. When the touching is committed in a threatening manner, assault can be linked to the battery. Since battery does not require the intent for harm, someone can be charged with battery anytime contact is made with another person, whether it be a forceful kick or knocking into someone on the street.

Assault and battery are often linked with one another since they are closely related and generally occur together. Anyone that has been charged with assault and/or battery should consult with a criminal defense attorney to discuss their legal options.

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