In 2019, 1.2 million Americans over the age of 12 were victims of violent crimes like assault and battery.
While this was a slight decrease from the number of victims in 2018, it’s still higher than anyone would like it to be.
Oftentimes, we hear about assault and battery together, but they are actually two separate crimes. Whether you’re a victim yourself, or you’re being accused of a crime, it can be helpful to know the difference between assault and battery.
Well, you’ve come to the right place to learn. Keep reading through this guide to learn more about assault vs battery, degrees of each crime, and more about the judicial process for these charges.
What Is Assault?
We often think of assault as an attack on one person by another. But, that’s not the legal definition. In legal terms, an assault occurs when someone has the intention to cause bodily harm to another person.
The threat or fear of harm alone can lead to an assault charge. Additionally, if you attempt to hurt someone else and you’re not successful, that can also be considered assault.
Degrees of Assault
Like many other crimes, there are degrees of assault for which you can receive charges. While these degrees can vary by state, generally speaking, you can either receive charges for simple assault or aggravated assault.
Simple assault is the less serious charge of the two. A simple assault occurs when someone attempts to cause harm or injury to another person, whether intentionally or recklessly.
In most cases, simple assault is a second-degree misdemeanor. As an example, if someone punches you, that is classified as a simple assault. However, even if they only attempt to punch you, but miss, that’s still a simple assault.
Aggravated assault is a more serious charge, as it means there is intent to cause serious bodily harm to someone else.
Many times, the presence or use of a weapon will raise a simple assault to an aggravated assault level. It depends on the specific circumstances of the case, but most of the time, an aggravated assault charge qualifies as a felony.
Shooting someone or striking a person with a deadly weapon are examples of aggravated assault.
How to Prove Assault
In order to prove an assault, the prosecution must provide proof of four elements. These elements of proof are as follows:
- Reasonable apprehension
- Imminent harm
- Harmful conduct
Without those elements of proof, it’s very difficult to convict someone of assault charges.
What Is Battery?
While assault is the intention to cause harm to another person, battery is the action of physically causing harm. This is why it’s so common to see both charges together.
If you commit battery, it can stand to reason that you also committed assault, because your intention was to hurt someone and you carried it out.
Essentially, as soon as you make harmful or offensive contact with another person, you’re committing an act of battery.
Degrees of Battery
Just as with assault, there are varying degrees of battery. And, they also vary by state. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
A simple battery occurs when there is only a minor injury sustained by the victim. In most cases, a simple battery is classified as a petty misdemeanor, depending on the specific circumstances of the case.
An example of a simple battery would be hitting, punching, or shoving someone during an argument.
An aggravated battery is a much more serious offense. As a result, if you’re charged with aggravated battery, it’s usually classified as a felony.
Examples of aggravated battery include shooting someone or physically harming someone to the extent that it causes permanent damage or serious physical injury.
How to Prove Battery
Just like in an assault case, the prosecution must be able to prove that key elements occurred beyond a reasonable doubt in a battery case. These elements of proof include:
- Engaging in a voluntary physical act
- Applying force to the victim either directly or indirectly
- Contact with the victim as a result of the force
Even if you don’t intend to cause permanent damage to the victim, doing the act of using force to hurt someone qualifies as battery.
Defenses for Assault and Battery
If you’re charged with either assault or battery – or both – you need a lawyer on your side. An assault attorney can represent you in court and help reduce your chances of punishment.
Here are a few common defenses for assault and battery charges.
Your lawyer may be able to argue that while you did engage in an act of assault or battery, you did so only as an act of self-defense.
For example, if someone came up to you and spoke threatening words, and you reacted by punching them, you can argue that you only did so because you believed you were in danger.
Defense of Property
Similarly, if you believed your property to be in danger, you can argue that your reaction resulted from that fear. This can apply to feeling threatened that someone was entering your home.
Or, it can apply to something smaller, like if someone attempted to steal your purse and you responded by hitting them.
Defense of Others
Another defense that could apply is if you felt others around you were threatened, so you acted accordingly.
For example, if someone threatened your spouse out at a bar, you could argue that you only hit them as a response to the verbal threat and you believed your spouse to be in danger.
Knowing the Difference Between Assault and Battery Is Key
Now that you know the difference between assault and battery, you know your rights, whether you’re pressing charges against someone or facing charges yourself.
Looking for other helpful information like this? Check out our other articles before you go.