The legal terms assault and battery are commonly used in conjunction with one another, yet they have specific distinctions that should be taken into consideration. The main difference between the two is that one involves physical contact whereas the other involves threat. While people often use the terms in conjunction with one another or even interchangeably, this is not always correct. Understanding the nuances and differences between these two legal terms is important and should be thoroughly explored.

What Is Assault?

According to the 18 U.S.C. 351(e), assault can be described as an attempt to do a corporal injury to another with force or violence. For an action to be considered an assault, there is only  a threat of violence and no physical harm that is inflicted. For example, if you threaten to kill or injure someone but don’t act upon those words, it would be considered an assault. Additionally, if you attempt to cause physical bodily harm, such as punching another individual, but are unsuccessful in your attempt and miss, this would be an assault. In addition to a simple assault, there is another classification of assault and aggravated assault. Aggravated assault usually involves the use of a deadly weapon on a vulnerable individual and will likely result in more severe punishments and penalties. 

What Is Battery?

The most important element that distinguishes an assault from battery is that battery involves actual infliction of violence and force on another individual. However, it is important to note that battery does not necessarily have to cause great physical harm to an individual. In fact, even the slightest touch could be considered a battery. A more extreme type of battery is called aggravated battery, which involves willfully and unlawfully physically and seriously injuring another person. Aggravated battery typically involves the use of a weapon, which often increases the severity of injury.

Assault Punishments

If you have been charged with assault, there are a number of different punishments that may potentially ensue. A simple assault is typically considered to be a misdemeanor offense and you will serve up to six months in jail and be charged up to $1,000 in fines. In certain states, there are varying degrees of assault, ranging from first, second, and third-degree. As the degrees increase, so does the intensity of the jail time and fines. In some cases, assault may also be considered a felony.

Battery Punishments

Battery is also generally considered a misdemeanor offense with up to six months in jail and higher fines than an assault charge, often between $2,000 and $10,000. Like assault, battery has varying degrees of severity that directly impact the punishments you will endure. In some cases, battery may also be considered a felony. In California, a battery charge that can be considered either a misdemeanor or felony is known as a “wobbler.” It is worth noting that assault and battery punishments differ from state to state. 

Common Defenses Used

If you have been charged with assault, battery, or both, there are a number of defenses that are commonly used by criminal defense lawyers in court. Some of these defenses include:

  • Self-defense: This defense argues that the violent act was necessary in order to defend oneself from future harm
  • Defense of property: If an individual trespassed onto the real or personal property of the defendant, and the defendant believed force or harm was necessary to protect their property, this defense may be permissible.
  • Consent: In some cases, the defendant may argue that the individual consented to these acts of violence. However, it is quite difficult to prove that the victim was willingly asking for the defendant to cause harm. 
  • Defense of others: The last defense commonly used is if the defendant was justified in their violent actions in order to protect and defend another person from imminent harm or danger.

Legal Defense

If you believe that you have been wrongfully charged or accused of either assault, battery, or both, seeking legal assistance is highly advised. An experienced Riverside assault and battery defense attorney, who has a wealth of experience navigating the legal system and advocating for the wrongfully accused, can help guide you through the legal process. A wrongful charge can have life-lasting and significant consequences, which makes legal guidance a must.