Determining the Difference between Assault & Battery

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will discuss the difference between assault and battery. We will look at the definition and an example of assault and do the same for battery. Then we'll consider situations in which both assault and battery take place.

Criminal Bodily Harm

If one day, you're walking down the street and a random person kicks your body, does that mean they've committed an assault, battery, or assault AND battery?

First, let's hope that never happens to you. Second, by the end of this lesson, it should be clear to you which crime was committed. That's because this lesson will define assault and battery, and provide an example of each.

Keep in mind that some nuances with respect to these terms, especially as they pertain to different state laws, are not mentioned in this lesson. Instead, a general overview of these terms is given.

What is Assault?

One day, Jack decides to go watch a football game at a stadium. He gets to his seat, the game starts, everything is going swell. Halfway through, his team scores a touchdown. There's a man sitting next to him, rooting for the other team.

Jack and the man get into an argument about the game. All of a sudden, the man stands up, clenches his fist, and draws back his arm as he threatens to beat Jack into a bloody pulp.

Freeze right there.

That man has committed assault. Assault is an intentional act (or threat of action), conducted with unlawful intent, which leads to the perception of imminent offensive contact. In other words, Jack reasonably assumed that the man's actions were directed towards inflicting bodily harm.

The man did not have to actually follow through on the threat and physically touch or punch Jack. The threat of physical harm is enough to charge someone with a crime: the crime of assault.

In summary, we can say that an assault could be considered an attempted or threatened battery.

What is Battery?

But what is battery? You can view it as a completed assault. In other words, battery refers to an act that causes bodily contact and may lead to bodily harm, without legal justification.

Let's unfreeze our scenario at the point where we left off. In this case, the man actually strikes Jack's body. No matter how light the strike, no matter where it lands on Jack's body, it is battery - it is unwanted, legally unjustified, bodily contact.

Assault & Battery

In some U.S. states, assault and battery are considered to be separate crimes. In other states, they are lumped together into one category, that of assault and battery or simply assault.

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