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What’s the difference between assault and battery?

| Apr 27, 2021 | criminal defense

Many individuals use the terms “assault and battery” in unison — or even interchangeably — with one another. 

Most jurisdictions classify these two crimes as two distinct criminal offenses, however. You may find it helpful to learn the actual difference between these two criminal offenses, which can help you better understand what to expect when you’re facing charges and when you’re strategizing your defense.

What are some main distinguishing factors between assault and battery?

Generally speaking, an assault is a viable threat to hurt another person, while battery requires actual physical contact or harm.

There are also different burdens that prosecutors must meet when trying someone on either one of these charges. Prosecutors must prove that a defendant accused of assault had the genuine intent to scare or harm another or that they acted in a way that’s dangerous. For example, a threat to hit someone doesn’t carry much weight if it’s shouted from an upstairs window down to someone on the street — but a threat like that made inches from another person’s face is more credible.

To prove a charge of battery, the prosecution must only show that intentional physical contact was made between the defendant and the victim, and that the contact was against the defendant’s will or offensive.

Because conflicts between people can quickly escalate, assaults can often turn into batteries — which may be the main reason they’re often charged together and connected in most people’s minds.

How to proceed in your battery or assault case

While you should take any criminal charges seriously, prosecutors seem to be most aggressive in prosecuting violent offenses like battery and assault. You’ll want to spend time learning more about the differences between these two crimes so that you can craft a solid defense strategy in your case to respond to the charges that you face.