Assault vs. Battery – What’s the Difference?

The definitions for assault and for battery can vary by state, but very often this is how they are differentiated:

Assault: Threatening bodily harm of another person, enough that the victim believes they will be physically harmed.

Battery: When a person is physically assaulted by another person. This can include being touched by someone else in a way that causes the victim to feel offended, pained, harmed, or interprets the action as violent. This can create an instance whereby the victim is barely touched but still fits one of the above criteria.

The Varying Degrees of Assault

They are as follows:

  1. First degree assault. This is the most severe. It usually includes bodily harm and a determination that the perpetrator had an extreme indifference for the value of human life. The use of a dangerous weapon is very often involved. First degree assault is also known as “aggravated assault.”
  2. Second degree assault. Very often will include the use of a dangerous weapon. Whether or not the perpetrator hurt the victim, their intention was to do so and in the process put their victim at risk for harm.
  3. Third degree assault. When someone tries to hurt another person but is unsuccessful in their attempt. Alternatively, the perpetrator does hurt another person but not physically.

When Assault and Battery Are One Offense

In some states, assault and battery are considered to be one and the same offense. This is because when a person commits battery against someone else, they often threaten that person beforehand and have the intention of hurting them. Battery charges are often divided into degrees: first, second, and third. The first degree is the most severe and third degree is the least severe.

In certain states, any intentional physical contact that a person makes with another person can be considered assault. Assault automatically includes battery as it’s defined in other states. There are often three degrees of assault: the first degree is the most severe and third degree is the least severe.

Assault and Battery Convictions

Those convicted of a felony will serve at least one year in a prison facility and not a local or county jail.

  1. First degree assault and battery. Regardless of how assault and/or battery charges are defined by jurisdiction, the first degree or aggravated assault charge is classified as a felony. The number of years in prison that someone faces will vary by state but can be anywhere from five to 25 years in prison. A criminal fine may also be imposed on the guilty person and can be many thousands of dollars depending on the offense.
  2. Second degree assault and battery. Also classified as a felony in most situations. Punishable by one to 20 years in prison.
  3. Third degree assault and battery. Usually classified as a misdemeanor, the perpetrator will not likely serve more than a year in jail or be sent to a prison.

For more information about legal charges involving assault or battery, contact a local criminal defense attorney today.