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Assault vs Battery | Definition, Difference, Punishments & More

For legal purposes, assault refers to the act of causing someone to reasonably fear imminent harm, whereas battery is the actual act of physically harming a person.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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How the Law Defines Assault and Battery

Assault and battery are both serious charges under the law, which can result in significant jail time, depending on which you are charged with and whether there are any aggravating factors involved.

In most states, assault is defined as an attempt to commit battery on another person, threatening a person, or using assaulting language. You do not actually have to strike someone to be charged with assault. However, if you use a deadly weapon while committing an assault, it becomes aggravated assault, which is a felony.

Battery, on the other hand, is a misdemeanor, but can still be penalized with up to 6 months in jail. Battery involves touching someone unlawfully or applying force to another person. Aggravated battery occurs when that touching or force involves a weapon or results in great bodily harm.

Medical Assault / Battery

Assault and battery can also occur in a medical setting, such as when a doctor or other healthcare professional:

  • Performs a medical procedure different than the one the patient consented to;
  • Ignores conditional consent in which a patient consents to a procedure only if specific conditions exist, but medical providers proceed without specified conditions being met, or
  • Performs a medical procedure without patient consent (excluding emergency procedures to prevent harm or save a patient’s life)

If I Am Convicted of Assault and/or Battery, What Kind of Punishment Could I be Facing?

  • Simple Assault: Max jail and fine is 60 days and $500.
  • Simple Battery: Max jail and fine is one year and $1,000.
  • Aggravated Assault: Max jail and fine is five years and $5,000.
  • Aggravated Battery: Max jail and fine is fifteen years and $10,000.

Can I Raise a Legal Defense if Charged With Assault or Battery?

If you've been charged with assault, you can raise a legal defense that can work to reduce, or even dismiss, a criminal charge. The criminal defense lawyers at our law firm advise clients that there are 4 effective defenses used to challenge assault charges. These are that the defendant:

  1. did not attempt to use force,
  2. acted in self-defense,
  3. did not act willfully, and
  4. was falsely accused.

There are also 4 effective defenses that an accused batterer can raise. These are that the defendant:

  1. did not actually touch another person (he rather only attempted to do so),
  2. did not act willfully,
  3. acted in self-defense, and
  4. was stopped or charged without probable cause.

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