Assault Vs. Battery

Depending on the state or jurisdiction you are in, the definitions may vary. Battery and assault are two very similar offenses but with some defining factors. Along with factors that define the act, specific factors will determine the penalties. Was a weapon used? Was the victim seriously injured? Was the attack intentional? Did they intend on causing harm to the other individual? The main defining factor is the threat, the attempt, and the actual act. 

Assault

Depending on the state where it occurred, the definition for assault may vary. Assault can be defined as the attempt or threat of causing harm to another individual. This can be through physical harm or unwanted physical contact. 

Depending on the state the act was committed, the penalties might vary. There might be specific defining factors that will determine if the assault is a felony or a misdemeanor. The use of a weapon can play a role as well. If the individual receives serious bodily injuries then that can also play a huge role.  

Assault is usually a misdemeanor offense and can typically result in fines or up to a year in jail. The penalties for assault will determine the factors that led to the arrest. Fines can range between $500 – $10,000 depending on the type of assault and if it’s a felony. The moment that the assault causes death or serious bodily injuries, it becomes a felony. If convicted, the offender will be sent to prison. Depending on the state the crime was committed in, the maximum sentence can be between 10 – 30 years. 

Types of Assault

    • Simple – This occurs when the assault was committed without a weapon. The injuries were minor and no serious harm was caused to the victim.
      • Penalty: Misdemeanor and will result in fines and/or up to one year in jail.
    • Physical – This type of assault is defined as harm caused to another that leaves harmful injuries but not life-threatening injuries. The injuries can be bruising, swollen lips, black eye, cuts, etc.
      • Penalty: Misdemeanor and will result in fines and/or up to one year in jail.
    • Sexual – Involves the act of forcefully committing a sexual act without the other party’s consent. This can be rape, molestation, or similar sexual offenses.
      • Penalty: Felony and a maximum sentence of 20 years. Depending on the state, sexual assault and rape can have different definitions. Rape can lead to a life sentence. 
    • Aggravated – When a weapon is involved, or extreme force was used to commit the assault. In some states, the type of weapon used will determine how long the sentence will be. Examples could be an assault weapon, semi-automatic, chemicals, or a machine gun.
      • Penalty: Felony and an average maximum sentence of 20 years.
    • Verbal- Not all assault has to be physical. Verbal assault is the act of orally communicating with someone in order to cause emotional, mental, or psychological injury to someone.
      • Penalty: Misdemeanor and will result in fines and/or anywhere between 6 months to a year in jail.
    • FeloniousA threat to attack or attempt to attack another individual. This can be accomplished through violence or excessive force in order to harm another person. The attack could involve serious bodily harm or be committed with a weapon. If a weapon is used, then it will be a felony offense even if there were no injuries. If injuries were created without a weapon but with hands, fists, or feet, then it will be a felony offense.
      • Penalty: Fines and/or a sentence of 1 to 25 years

Example of Assault

Tony is walking down the street to get home from a long day at work. During his walk, he normally has headphones on so he can listen to his playlist. While walking, he passes by a couple walking the opposite direction. During their passing, he unknowingly bumps into the female’s arm and knocks over her drink. Her drink ends up spilling on her boyfriend’s shirt and ruins it. Furious at what happens, the boyfriend runs after Tony and yells at him saying he’s “going to pay for ruining his shirt”. 

When he confronts Tony, he attempts to swing at him but Tony dodges it. The boyfriend continues yelling threats and claiming he’s going to cause physical harm to Tony. Even though there was no physical contact, a threat was still made. This would be considered a verbal assault. If he had grabbed an object, like a bat, and used that to swing at Tony, then it’s aggravated assault. 

Depending on the state that the assault took place in, the laws might be different. There might be specific factors that may be looked at. If the victim was pregnant at the time? What kind of weapon was used? Was it a spouse or significant other? Each state has its own laws. Listed below are examples. 

Battery

Battery is the act of intentionally inflicting physical contact with an individual. The physical contact must cause physical harm to the receiving individual. This contact can be committed through body contact or use of an item. This is the main difference between assault and battery: the threat and the actual act. Battery is considered a misdemeanor offense and will normally result in jail and a fine. 

Similar to assault, there are multiple factors that determine the penalties a person will receive. Some states will sentence the individual for less than 30 days in jail for a simple battery charge. Other offenses like battery with a weapon can lead to many years in prison. Other factors that might affect the penalties may be who the victim was. Domestic violence cases can vary depending on the state. In Alabama, domestic violence cases can lead to 99 years or life in prison. 

Types of Battery

    • Simple – This is the unauthorized act of contact or using physical force to cause harm to another individual. This can be touching or physical injury.
      • Penalty: Misdemeanor offense with fines and up to a year in jail.
    • Aggravated – This type of battery will result in serious physical injuries. A weapon can be used to cause these injuries to the victim. In order to be charged for aggravated battery, the offender would have intended to cause harm to the victim.
      • Penalty:  Can be a misdemeanor or a felony. If there are minimal injuries, then it’s usually a misdemeanor. Penalties can be fines and up to a year in jail. If the injuries are severe or a weapon was used, then it’s a felony. Penalties include fines and up to 25 years in prison.
    • Medical – If a medical professional fails to obtain consent from a patient to perform a task, then they have committed battery. This could be through touching the patient or handling the patient’s body without consent. This act could be used in a medical malpractice lawsuit for negligence.
      • Penalty: Misdemeanor offense with fines and up to a year in jail. May have to compensate the victim for any losses.

Example of Battery

Every morning, Jane wakes up and goes to the park for a two mile jog. This morning was extremely hot and she decided to go jogging in her sports bra. When she got to the park, she put in her earbuds and began jogging.

 While jogging she noticed that someone had been following her for the past half mile. She glanced and realized that it was a male who she has seen at the park a few times in the past week. He took the glance as an invitation to catch up to her. He began talking to her and complimenting her appearance. He started talking about how he noticed her change in clothes this morning. She expressed her discomfort and asked if he would let her finish her jog.

Unamused by her response, he begins spouting derogatory terms at her. The man then kicks jane in her ankle causing her to fall onto the trail. As a result, she broke her ankle due to the impact of the fall. An intentional physical contact was made to cause Jane harm. This would be an example of battery. 

Conclusion

Some states classify battery and assault as the same offense. Others might have some factors that differentiate the two. Factors might be physical contact or a weapon. In states like Florida, there are different categories of battery, defined by the factors that led to the arrest.