What is the difference between assault and battery?

| Jan 26, 2021 | Criminal Law |

It is very common to hear a particular phrase on law-based television shows or movies: “You’re under arrest for assault and battery.”  Many people erroneously believe that these are the exact same thing or a three word phrase for a singular charge.

In reality, there is a legal difference between a charge of assault and a charge of battery. However, they do have some things in common. According to FindLaw both involve an individual trying to physically strike another or actually doing so, and both involve acting in a threatening manner which makes somebody else afraid for their safety.

What is assault?

Probably the most succinct definition of assault is that assault is an attempt at battery. Essentially, if an individual is trying to use violence or force in order to injure or harm another person, that person may be guilty of assault.

Contact is not necessarily required for a charge of assault. However, there must be some sort of criminal act going on that makes another individual fear for their safety. Saying words is not enough for a charge of assault unless there are additional actions that put the other person in fear of potential harm.

What is battery?

Battery requires offensive or harmful touching of another person without that person’s consent. Interestingly, battery does not require intent to harm on the part of the person accused of battery. There must only be an intent on the part of the “batterer” to come in contact with the victim.

For example, spitting on somebody else may constitute battery, even though most people envision battery as something more along the lines of kicking or punching another person.