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What Is the Difference Between Assault and Battery?

Do you know the difference between assault and battery charges? Often charged together, they are actually two different crimes with differing consequences. Here is what each charge means, the consequences of them, and some arguments that an experienced criminal defense attorney can use to defend you in court.

The Definition and Consequences of Assault

Assault is defined as threatening bodily harm in a way that causes a victim to fear for their safety. With assault, there is usually no physical impact (or attempted physical impact) to the victim. Assault includes pointing a gun or waving a potential weapon at someone. It also includes causing fear or making physical contact with a person either with or without a weapon in order to restrain.

Degrees of Assault

  • Third Degree Assault: The least serious of assault charges, an attempt is made to injure another person. This also includes mental or emotional injury.
  • Second Degree Assault: The intent behind the bodily harm, or the level of it, is more severe than Third Degree Assault but less than First Degree Assault. Often, use of a dangerous weapon is involved.
  • First Degree Assault (or Aggravated): This generally includes severe bodily harm and extreme indifference for the value of human life. It usually includes the use of a dangerous weapon.
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Consequences of Assault

A Third Degree Assault is usually classified as a misdemeanor, which carries the consequence of up to 1 year in jail. A Second Degree Assault is usually classified as a felony and is punishable by 1-20 years in prison. A First Degree (or Aggravated) Assault is classified as a felony and is punishable by 5-25 years in prison. Additionally, each of these charges carries jail time and fines on top of the final sentence. Variations of assault include sexual assault (which can include rape and statutory rape), assault on a minor, assault on a peace officer, assault with intent to murder, and gang assault. These crimes are all generally classified and charged as felonies. If there are any prior offenses on your record, the charges are almost always enhanced.

The Definition and Consequences of Battery

Battery is defined as the actual physical impact on another person. This includes minor touching (providing it is painful, harmful, or offensive to the victim) as well as more severe physical contact. Assault may be charged along with battery since there is often a threat with the intent to harm before committing a physical act.

Degrees of Battery

  • Third Degree Battery: To purposely causing stupor, unconsciousness, or physical or mental impairment or injury to another person without their consent, including by using drugs or other substances.
  • Second Degree Battery: Having intentionally committing bodily harm. This includes injury with unconsciousness, extreme pain, disfigurement, loss or impairment, or substantial risk of death.
  • First Degree Battery (or Aggravated): Using a deadly weapon to cause serious bodily injury. Also, injury inflicted on a child or peace officer.

Consequences of Battery

Depending on the seriousness of bodily damage caused, battery may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. The range of punishment for a misdemeanor goes from 1 day to 1 year in jail and fines up to $2000. An aggravated battery charge can range from 2 years to life in prison. Golden scales of justice, gavel and books wood brown background

Defenses Against These Charges

The following are some examples of common defenses to assault and battery charges:
  • Mutual Consent: When both parties agree to the situation or when it was a two-sided situation.
  • Self Defense: The use of reasonable force to protect oneself from bodily harm from the attack of an aggressor.
  • Defense of Others: The use of reasonable force to protect another person from bodily harm by an aggressor.
  • Defense of Property: The use of reasonable force to protect property such as personal items or home.
Keep in mind that less severe assault cases can be difficult to prove. Also, defense arguments are only valid when the exertion used to secure self, others, or property is proportional to the exertion the other party used to threaten or attack. If you have been charged with assault, battery, or both, it is in your best interest to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Bradley Corbett

Bradley Corbett

Bradley Corbett is a criminal defense attorney in San Diego. He graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo Utah in 2004. Later he enrolled at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego where he participated in a prestigious internship program with the Los Angeles County Public Defender. Since then he has handled over 2,000 cases.

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