Whether you’re listening to a lawyer or watching a television show, you’ve probably heard the words “assault” and “battery” mentioned together a lot. For example, you may hear a detective on a cop show claim the aggressor committed assault and battery. However, that term is often misleading. An aggressor can commit a battery or an assault, but not assault and battery. Thus, the terms aren’t similar and nor do they have a similar definition. The key difference between the terms is the amount of contact the aggressor had with his or her victim.
Assault is the threat of contact which produces apprehension in the victim. For instance, if an aggressor threats to harm you by pretending to punch you, you become apprehensive. You believe the person is moments away from harming you. Assault occurs in different forms. An aggressor may:
• Threaten you with a baseball bat
• Point a gun at you
• Verbally threaten you
• Pretend to hit you
The important element in an assault is it being an intentional act that causes a person to fear, but not actual harm. So, if an aggressor started to slap you, you’d throw your hands up to defend yourself because you believe you’re about to suffer a physical attack. However, if the aggressor points a gun at you that you know isn’t loaded and claim he’ll shoot, it’s not assault. Although the aggressor threatened you, you knew no bodily harm would occur if he pulled the trigger.
You may think that a threat shouldn’t be classified as a crime or a tort. However, it is just as important as physical harm. The assault is against the law because no one deserves to become fearful or afraid of imminent bodily harm—even if it doesn’t happen.
Battery is a physical attack. It is a violent contact between the aggressor and victim. Also, the offensive touching is not wanted or authorized by the victim. Unlike assault, the aggressor must make contact with the victim. Yes, an assault can occur before a battery. For instance, the aggressor can threaten to hit you then do it. This is why you may hear that an aggressor, even on a television show, was charged with assault and battery.
However, it doesn’t always happen. The aggressor can just harm you without any forewarning. During an argument, the aggressor can hit you with a book or as you’re waiting at a bus stop he or she can kick you. A battery can include:
• Choke hold
Remember, battery is physical contact with the victim and anything on or close to his or her body. The aggressor can knock the victim’s hat off his head or snatch her purse. Even though the harm wasn’t a punch or stabbing, it still happened to something attached to the victim. Thus, it’s battery.
If someone bumps into you while you’re walking down a busy street, it isn’t battery. The person didn’t intend to bump you while walking. Thus, that example doesn’t constitute battery.
The important element of battery is the intent to harm the victim. Therefore, the aggressor must make contact with the victim. Also, he or she must know that the offensive contact will cause harm to the victim.
This intent can take place in three different ways.
• Indirect and immediate contact: the aggressor throws a rock at the victim
• Immediate and direct contact: the aggressor shoves the victim
• Remote and indirect contact: the aggressor creates a trap that the victim falls into later
Misdemeanor and Felony Criminal Charges
A tort is a civil wrong which allows a victim to sue in civil court of damages such as pain and suffering, lost wages and medical bills. Criminal charges are different and typically vary by the type of threat and/ or the amount of offensive, unauthorized contact. For instance, a misdemeanor is a lesser charge punishable by a probation, fines and time in jail.
Although an assault is typically classified in jurisdictions as a violent crime, an aggressor will generally be charged with a misdemeanor. A felonious assault, punishable by prison time, occurs because the aggressor used a deadly weapon such as a gun. Therefore, most assaults are generally a misdemeanor unless the victim is placed in extreme danger.
A battery is also classified as a misdemeanor. If an aggressor spits on a victim it’s usually called a simple battery. However, if the aggressor beats the victim, then it may be classified as an aggravated, or felonious, battery.
Key Elements to Remember about Assault vs. Battery
• The major difference is battery requires contact. Assault only requires a threat of physical harm.
• According to most jurisdictions, an aggressor can commit the crime or tort of assault without being charged with battery. However, an aggressor charged with battery is typically charged with assault too. It’s akin to making good on a threat to harm the victim.
• Battery is easier to prove than assault because there is physical evidence
The terms “battery” and “assault” are typically used interchangeably by people and even of fictional shows. However, the terms represent different crimes. Assault merges into a crime of battery, but not vice versa. Intent is an element in both crimes. If you’re still having trouble remembering the difference think: assault is no contact and battery is contact.
If you're in need of a criminal defense attorney in Maryland, contact Shapiro & Mack, P.A.