11 October, 2023

You will often find people using the terms assault and battery interchangeably, and yet, from the legal point of view, these two are completely different terms. And what’s more important is that both of these have different implications. In this blog, we will not only take a look at the definitions of these two terms but also the different charges associated with each of them so that you can have a better idea about the difference between these two terms. Let’s start with the assault and battery definitions.

assault and battery


What is an Assault?

Do you know what assault and battery are? Assault is not always about physical harm, as is often mistaken. Rather, it’s more about making someone afraid that their life is in danger right now because someone intentionally wants to harm them. This fear can stem from many things. It can be because someone is displaying menacing behavior because they are threatening you, or even because of the mere presence of a person. What’s important to note here is that you don’t actually need someone to do physical harm for it to be characterized as an assault.


What is Battery?

Contrary to the definition of assault, battery occurs when there is physical harm involved. Battery is when a person intentionally hurts someone and touches them in an offensive manner without their consent. This can be a simple tap on your arm or even a punch, leaving a bruise. The key elements to keep in mind in this definition are the lack of consent and the intention of the person hurting you. There are different forms of battery, which depend on factors like the circumstances that led to the incident and the extent of the injury. In certain cases, battery can lead to other grave criminal charges, but these also depend on the legal statutes and the specific jurisdiction you are talking about. Non-consensual touching or unwanted sexual contact also counts as battery. Most of the sexual crimes that are committed in different states have some element of battery in them. In fact, there are states that have separate penal codes labeled ‘sexual battery’ for such crimes.


Key Differences Between Assault and Battery

A fundamental difference between battery and assault is that every assault does not include battery. Let’s take an example to understand this better. If someone simply raises their hand with the intent of threatening you but does not cause any actual physical contact with you, then it is characterized as an assault, but if there was physical contact made, it would have been battery. Thus, battery necessitates physical harm and is not about mere threats. It’s safe to say that not all assaults will escalate to a situation where it can be called a battery, but every case of battery is an assault, too.

Another key difference between assault and battery is that in the case of an assault, a simple perception or fear of harm is sufficient for pressing criminal charges, and thus, actual harm is not required. The apprehension of danger on the part of the victim is the key element here. In simpler words, if the victim feels that someone genuinely wants to hurt them, it would be considered an assault despite the fact that the victim was not subjected to any real physical harm. On the other hand, there has to be the application of physical force for a crime to be categorized as battery.


Charges for Assault

The specific charges for assault will vary depending on the jurisdiction you are talking about. But in general, these are some categories of assault and their potential penalties:

  • Simple assault: This is the most basic form, where the accused intentionally creates fear in the victim that they are going to harm them physically. The penalties in this case are usually fines and, in some cases, imprisonment.
  • Aggravated assault: Here, the circumstances surrounding the incident are more serious; for example, the intent might be to cause severe harm, the use of a weapon might have been present, or the assault might have also been made on someone vulnerable, like an elderly person or a child. Penalties are severe, too, and prison time is significant.
  • Assault with intent to cause bodily harm: The intent here is very specific, and the penalties also involve substantial prison sentences.
  • Sexual assault: As mentioned previously, this is where the accused makes non-consensual contact or sexual acts with a person. The penalties differ widely. There is obviously prison time, but in some cases, the accused, if found guilty, also has to be registered as a sex offender.
  • Domestic assault: When the assault has occurred within a familial or domestic setting, it’s referred to as domestic assault, and the penalties usually involve restraining orders and counseling.
  • Assault on a police officer: When someone assaults a police officer, the penalties are usually serious.


Charges for Battery

Battery can be divided into the same categories as in the case of assaults, but the only difference between the two is that in the case of a battery charge, there’s actual bodily harm involved. Here, the severity of the charges will vary depending on the jurisdiction you are in and the defendant’s criminal history. Battery can be charged as a felony or even a misdemeanor, depending upon the circumstances surrounding the act.


Assault Charge Penalties

If you are wondering how long you can go to jail for assault, this section will answer your question. In the State of Washington, a first-degree assault will be classified as a Class A felony. The offender can receive up to life imprisonment and up to $50,000 in fines. For second-degree assault, it’s a class B felony, and the offender receives up to 10 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines. However, if sexual motivation was found to be involved, then it would be categorized as a Class A felony. Third-degree assault is a Class C felony, and the offender can receive up to 5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Fourth-degree assault is a gross misdemeanor, and the offender will have to pay up to $5,000 in fines and up to one year in prison.


Battery Charge Penalties

In the state of Washington, batteries aren’t explicitly mentioned. However, the crimes in this category are judged on the basis of the assault charges.


Getting Legal Help? Contact Leyba Defense!

So, are you ready to protect your rights? Then, contact Leyba Defense today! We have a well-trained and experienced team at our company who will stand by your side no matter what and work with you to understand the complexities of the case. This will help our team at Leyba Defense prepare the best defense for assault and battery charges and fight for the best possible outcome. Reach out today!