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Assault vs Battery (What Is The Difference: Legal Definition)

What is the difference between Assault vs Battery?

How do you legally define it?

What are the essential elements you should know!

Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!

Let’s dig into our criminal and civil law knowledge!

Are you ready?

Let’s get started!

What Is Assault Battery

Assault and battery are separate offenses but tend to occur together at the same time.

“Assault” refers to an act by a person causing another, the victime, to fear imminent physical harm.

For example, if a person threatens to hurt another, that’s assault.

“Battery” refers to an act of physical violence committed by one person against another, the victim.

For example, a person punches another in the face.

The reason why we say “assault and battery” is that the two acts have occured in the context of the same event.

In other words, a person threatens to hurt another person with physical violence causing the other to fear physical harm and actually engages in acts of physical violence. 

What’s more is that the courts expect more than words uttered for an assault charge to be successfully prosecuted.

There are many instances when a person threatens another but the threat is empty or will clearly not be carried out.

Assault is when the victim reasonably believes or fears that the offender will actually carry out the threats of bodily harm.

As such, the overall circumstances are important like if the person was masked, was accompanied by other people, carried weapons, the threats happened in a specific location etc.

Battery Assault Definition

What is the legal definition of assault battery?

Assault can be legally defined as follows:

An act committed by one resulting another person to reasonably fear that he or she may receive battery or be physically harmed.

Battery can be legally defined as follows:

An act committed by one causing bodily harm to another.

Assault and battery could be criminal in nature when the acts of assault or battery took place knowingly, intentionally, and without legal justification.

A victim of battery and assault can also file a civil lawsuit before the courts to seek compensation for damages that may have been caused as a result of such acts.

Assault vs Battery Criminal Law

Assault and battery are essentially two different offenses that can be committed independent of one another or in the context of the same event.

Assault is when a person threatens another with physical violence resulting in the other person apprehending an imminent physical harm.

On the other hand, battery is when a person actually engages in physically harming another.

Under criminal law, you may hear references to assault and battery but they are two concepts that are used together to refer to an event when a person threatened to cause another physical injury and actually went through with it.

For a person to be found guilty of assault, battery, or assault battery, the prosecutor must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the person knowingly or intentionally committed the act without legal justification.

In many states, simple assault is a minor misdemeanor resulting in a potential fine and short jail time.

Aggravated assault is a more serious type of misdemeanor resulting in possibly higher fines and longer jail sentences.

Simple battery will generally be a serious misdemeanor resulting in higher fines and longer jail sentences.

Aggravated battery is when there’s great bodily harm and, in most cases, will be considered a felony.

Assault vs Battery Tort Law

In tort law, a person committing acts of assault and battery is a tortfeasor committing acts of intentional tort.

When a person causes another economic or noneconomic harm, the injured person may seek compensation before the civil courts.

In a civil court, the plaintiff is not the state or prosecutor but the victim.

The victim claims compensation, or compensatory damages, for the defendant’s tortious acts.

For example, if the defendant committed acts of battery causing the victim to incur medical expenses or lose wages, the victim may seek the financial recovery of such damages.

In cases where the defendant’s conduct was so outrageous or deviating from societal norms of conduct, the court may also award punitive damages to the plaintiff as a means to dissuade the defendant from repeating the same conduct in the future.

Bodily Harm Offenses

In criminal law, crimes are generally divided into two main categories:

  • Crimes against property
  • Crimes against a person 

Just like other crimes against the person such as homicide, kidnapping, sex offenses, assault and battery are offenses that fall under the “bodily harm” type of offenses.

Battery is a type of offense where a person causes bodily injuries or harm to another intentionally and without justification (there is physical contact).

Assault is an offense where a person engages in conduct that puts another person in a reasonable apprehension of receiving battery (there is no actual physical contact but a real or implied threat of battery).

Even though there is no actual physical contact between the offender and the victim, assault falls under the category of bodily harm offenses.

Aggravators to Assault And Battery 

In criminal law, the offenses of battery and assault can both be prosecuted as simple assault or simple battery but also can be enhanced or aggravated (enhanceable offenses).

So what is the difference between aggravated assault vs battery.

Depending on the circumstances of the case and how the assault or battery crimes were committed, the prosecutor may charge the defendant with a misdemeanor or a felony.

For example, if a person commits simple assault with a weapon, then it can be charged as aggravated assault.

Similarly, a misdemeanor felony can be enhanced to a felony depending on the nature of the physical harm, the offender’s conduct, and circumstances of the case.

You will have aggravated battery when the offender committed batter on a law enforcement officer or acts of strangulation. 

Legal Defenses 

Depending on the type of assault, battery, or assault and battery case, a defendant may have different legal defenses to present.

If the matter is prosecuted under criminal laws, the defendant must raise sufficient doubt in the mind of the judge that a crime was not committed.

The prosecutor has the burden to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that the accused engaged in acts of assault or battery.

A defendant can raise legal defenses such as:

  • Lack of sufficient evidence presented by the prosecutor
  • Inability to prove the intentional act 
  • The defendant was defending his or her property 
  • Provocation 
  • Intoxication by drugs or alcohol 
  • Consent 
  • Insanity 
  • Lack use of force
  • Self-defense 

Although the specific facts of the case are important, it’s crucial you speak with your defense lawyer or criminal attorney to find the proper legal defense for your case.

In the context of a tort lawsuit before the civil courts, the plaintiff has to prove based on the preponderance of probabilities that the defendant caused damages through acts of assault or battery.

The burden of proof is not as high as in a criminal court but the plaintiff must nonetheless prove that an act of intentional tort was committed. 

Battery vs Assault Takeaways 

So, what’s the difference between assault and battery?

Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

Assault vs Battery

  • Assault is when someone threatens to cause another physical harm whereas battery is when the victim is physically harmed 
  • Assault and battery are two separate offenses but tend to occur at the same time 
  • Different states have different laws on the criminal definition of assault or battery, can have different degrees (like first degree, second degree, or third degree) and carry different possible sentences or punishment 
  • The victim of assault and battery, whether reaching criminal status or not, suffering financial damages may file a lawsuit before the civil courts for compensation under tort laws 
Aggravated assault
Assault definition
Battery definition 
Felony assault 
Intentional tort 
Legal defense 
Sexual battery vs sexual assault 
Tort law 
Tort liability 
Willful misconduct
Beyond reasonable doubt
Burden of proof
Criminal law 
Criminal procedure
Defense lawyer
Enhanceable offenses 
Felony charge
Misdemeanor charge 
Violent crimes

Editorial Staffhttps://lawyer.zone
Hello Nation! I'm a lawyer and passionate about law. I've practiced law in a boutique law firm, worked in a multi-national organization and as in-house counsel. I've been around the block! On this blog, I provide you with golden nuggets of information about lawyers, attorneys, the law and legal theories. Enjoy!


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