In most jurisdictions, assault and battery is a crime committed when a person attempts to physically harm another person, and acts in a way that causes the victim to fear that he will be harmed. While assault and battery were traditionally classified as two very distinct crimes, modern laws pair them together as one offense. To explore this concept, consider the following assault and battery definition.
Definition of Assault and Battery
- An unlawful physical attack, or threat of violence, on an individual, with or without actual injury.
- A crime in which there is actual touching or violence along with the intent to cause a person harm and/or fear.
1200-1250 Middle English asaut
What is Assault and Battery
A primary factor in either crime, assault or battery, is having the intent to cause harm to another person. Modern laws pair the offenses of assault and battery together as one, with the idea that making threats of violence, engaging in threatening behavior that causes the victim fear he will be harmed, and actually physically harming someone all show an intent to cause harm.
Difference Between Assault and Battery
According to historic criminal laws, assault and battery were two crimes that could possibly occur at the same time. Assault referred to any intentional act that causes another person to be fearful of immediate harm. This required the perpetrator to have the means or ability to carry out his threat, making the victim’s fear valid, and no actual physical contact was required.
Battery, on the other hand, referred to an intentional and offensive physical contact with a victim who had not given his consent to be touched. Merely touching someone without his consent could potentially be considered battery, even if force wasn’t applied. Although assault and battery is now considered to be a single crime in almost every jurisdiction in the United States, the courts in many may charge a perpetrator with separate crimes of assault or battery if it wishes to do so.
Assault and Battery Charges
Some jurisdictions use different degrees to classify assault and battery cases. First-degree assault and battery charges are the most severe and it includes extreme bodily harm, usually with the use of a weapon. Some laws use the term “aggravated assault and battery” charges in place of first-degree assault.
Other ways to designate the various assault and battery charges include:
- Simple Assault – no weapon is used, and the injuries sustained by the victim are relatively minor. Simple assault is usually a misdemeanor.
- Aggravated Assault – an assault committed with a weapon, or an assault or threat of harm committed with the intent to commit a more serious crime, such as rape. Assault against a person in a protected class, such as an elderly person, or a child. Aggravated assault is a felony.
- Sexual Assault – a catchall term referring to any act of a sexual nature perpetrated on a person without his or her consent. This may include such acts as sexual intercourse, sexual touching, or penetration by an object. Sexual assault also refers to forcing a person to touch the perpetrator in a sexual manner. Sexual assault is a crime of violence, and is a felony.
- Assault With a Deadly Weapon – physical assault or violence committed by using, or attempting to use, a weapon or object that is capable of causing serious injury or death. Guns and knives are not the only things considered weapons, as just about any object could be used to cause serious harm, including such items as a golf club, a screwdriver or wrench, a pocket or kitchen knife, a rock, broken window, boot, or car. Assault with a deadly weapon is a felony, no matter what type of weapon is used.
Example of Simple Assault
Melonie walks into a bar with her friends for a girls’ night out, and sees her boyfriend dancing suggestively with another woman. Enraged, Melonie runs over, grabs the other woman by the hair, and drags her to the ground, where they scuffle until Melonie’s friends pull them apart. The police had already been called, and when they arrive a few minutes later, Melonie is arrested for simple assault. The crime Melonie committed is classified as a “simple” assault because she used no weapon, and her victim received only a few bruises and minor scratches. Melonie has committed a misdemeanor.
Example of Aggravated Assault
Sarah walks into a bar with her friends for a girls’ night out, and sees her boyfriend dancing suggestively with another woman. Enraged, Sarah runs over, screaming at her boyfriend, and shoves the woman, who shoves back. Sarah grabs the woman’s hair and drags her half way across the room, where the two start swinging fists at one another, until the bouncer gets them separated. In her rage, Sarah didn’t even notice that the woman is pregnant, but this means she is in a protected class in most jurisdictions. When the police arrive, Sarah, who started the fight, is arrested and charged with aggravated assault. Sarah has committed a felony.
Assault and Battery Punishments
Assault and battery punishments vary greatly, depending on the laws of the jurisdiction and the circumstances surrounding the crime. Generally, assault and battery punishments range from fines and community service, to imprisonment of one year or more. While first time offenders may receive more leniency, repeat offenders often face stiffer penalties for similar crimes.
Commonly, felony assault charges result in prison terms of 5 to 25 years. Misdemeanor assault and battery charges may result in probation, a fine, community service, or imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year.
In addition to facing criminal charges, a perpetrator charged with assault and battery might face civil liability. If the victim is injured, or suffered physical or emotional distress, he could sue the perpetrator in civil court, where the perpetrator may be ordered to pay money damages in the form of medical bills, including prescription medications, compensation for the victim’s lost days at work, and even money for the pain and suffering he caused the victim. Civil liability may be proven even if the perpetrator escaped criminal prosecution, or was acquitted at trial. The burden of proof for civil liability is must less stringent, requiring that the victim prove only that it is more likely than not that the actions of the perpetrator caused his injuries and other losses.
Assault and Battery Defenses
Most individuals charged with assault and battery claim they were defending themselves. A claim of self defense requires the perpetrator prove certain elements were present:
- The other party made a threat of harm or unlawful force against him.
- He had a genuine fear of being harmed by the other party.
- There was no provocation on his part.
- There was no reasonable chance he could have retreated or escaped.
Other assault and battery defenses include a lack of intent to harm the other party, that the perpetrator acted in defense of his property, or that he lacked the mental capacity to intentionally harm someone.
Assault and Battery Cases
Garratt v. Dailey
In 1955, 5-year old Brian Dailey pulled Ruth Garratt’s chair out from beneath her just as she was sitting down. Ruth, who was an adult, fell and broke her hip. Ruth’s family sued little Brian for Ruth’s injuries, claiming he had committed the act, technically battery, intentionally, even though he didn’t intend to injure her. The court ruled in favor of Dailey claiming he did not intend to cause injury. Nevertheless, the court made a finding of $11,000, which was overturned on appeal. (See Garratt v. Dailey, 46 Wash. 2d 197, 279 P.2d 1091 (Wash. 1955)).
Vosburg v. Putney
Fourteen-year old Andrew Vosburg had injured his leg, and it was not healing quickly. One day a classmate, 11-year old George Putney, reached across the aisle with his foot and made contact with Vosburg’s leg just below the knee, technically committing battery. Vosburg didn’t feel the contact initially, it was so light, but felt severe pain at the site a few minutes later. The injury became so severe, that Vosburg suffered vomiting and severe swelling, and required two surgeries, during which it was discovered that the bone in his leg had degenerated so badly that the child lost the use of his leg.
Andrew Vosburg’s parents filed a lawsuit against George Putney for battery. The trial court found in Vosburg’s favor, awarding him only $2,800. Putney’s family appealed, and a new trial was ordered due to an error in the first trial. During the trial, Putney’s defense made the point that he had no knowledge that Vosburg suffered from a prior injury, and so he could not have intended to cause such a severe injury. The trial court again decided in favor of Andrew Vosburg, awarding him only $2,500.
The case of Vosburg v. Putney is a prime example of the rule in common law called the “eggshell skull rule,” which basically means that an individual (the defendant) takes another individual (the plaintiff) as he finds him. It does not matter that the defendant had no knowledge that the plaintiff had a prior injury (an “eggshell skull”), as he should know that his actions could cause serious injury to another person. (See Vosburg v. Putney, 80 Wis. 523, 50 N.W. 403 (Wisc. 1891)).
Related Legal Terms and Issues
- Criminal Act – An act committed by an individual that is in violation of the law, or that poses a threat to the public.
- Criminal Charge – A formal accusation by a prosecuting authority that an individual has committed a crime.
- Damages – A monetary award in compensation for a financial loss, loss of or damage to personal or real property, or an injury.
- Defendant – A party against whom a lawsuit has been filed in civil court, or who has been accused of, or charged with, a crime or offense.
- Emotional Distress – A negative emotional reaction, such as anguish, humiliation, or grief, resulting from the conduct of another individual. Also referred to as “mental anguish.”
- Judicial Decision – A decision made by a judge regarding the matter or case at hand.
- Jurisdiction – The legal authority to hear legal cases and make judgments; the geographical region of authority to enforce justice.
- Intent – A resolve to perform an act for a specific purpose; a resolution to use a particular means to a specific end.
- Liable – Responsible by law; to be held legally answerable for an act or omission.
- Overturn – To change a decision or judgment so that it becomes the opposite of what it was originally.
- Plaintiff – A person who brings a legal action against another person or entity, such as in a civil lawsuit, or criminal proceedings.
- Trial – A formal presentation of evidence before a judge and jury for the purpose of determining guilt or innocence in a criminal case, or to make a determination in a civil matter.
- Victim – A person who is injured, killed, or otherwise harmed as a result of a criminal act, accident, or other event.
For example, if someone tells another person they will throw a bottle at them, they have committed assault. If they then go on to throw that bottle, and actually hit another person, then they have committed battery.What is difference between assault and battery and examples? ›
The main difference between a battery charge and an assault charge is the actual presence of harm and the threat of harm. Someone can only be charged with battery if they have caused real physical harm to someone, while a person can be charged with assault if the mere threat of harm is present.What is battery crime examples? ›
For example: Simple battery may include any form of non-consensual harmful or insulting contact, regardless of the injury caused. Criminal battery requires intent to inflict an injury on another. Sexual battery may be defined as non-consensual touching of the intimate parts of another.What are 3 types of assaults? ›
- common assault.
- actual bodily harm (ABH)
- grievous bodily harm (GBH)/ wounding.
Assault.—Whoever makes any gesture, or any preparation intending or knowing it to be likely that such gesture or preparation will cause any person present to apprehend that he who makes that gesture or preparation is about to use criminal force to that person, is said to commit an assault.What is common assault and battery? ›
The offences of common assault and battery
An assault is committed when the defendant intentionally or recklessly causes another to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence and battery is committed when a defendant intentionally or recklessly inflicts unlawful force.
An assault is any act (and not mere omission to act) by which a person intentionally or recklessly causes another to suffer or apprehend immediate unlawful violence. The term assault is often used to include a battery, which is committed by the intentional or reckless application of unlawful force to another person.What is assault and battery in criminal law? ›
Battery is the intentional and direct application of force to another person. Assault on the other hand is causing a person reasonable apprehension of the infliction of force or immediate harm upon him.What are some examples of battery? ›
- Grabbing someone's arm.
- Punching a person.
- Pushing another person.
- Striking or threatening to strike another person with a dangerous object or weapon.
The defendant acts. The defendant intends to cause contact with the victim. The defendant's contact with the victim is harmful or offensive. The defendant's contact causes the victim to suffer a contact that is harmful or offensive.
Consent and Bodily Harm
In very limited circumstances, victims can be held to consent to these crimes. One common example is in physical contact sports. Participants in a sports game are deemed to have consented to the physical contact and possible bodily harm that is an essential element of their sport.
- Do something that would result in applying force to a person; AND,
- Do the act willfully; AND,
- Be aware of facts that should make you realize your act would result in applying force; AND,
- Have the present ability to apply force; AND,
- Possess no legal excuse.
Otherwise good reliable eye-witness evidence or good quality photographs accompanied by descriptions of the extent of the injuries will suffice for other summary assault cases.What are the 4 classifications assault? ›
A few of the most common types of assault experienced are verbal, simple, aggravated, and sexual.What type of case is assault? ›
Assault is defined as the unlawfully and intentionally applying force to another person, or inspiring a belief in that other person that force is to be applied to him or her. There is a clear distinction in criminal law between common assault and assault involving serious physical injury.What are the two elements of assault? ›
To rise to the level of an actionable offense (in which the plaintiff may file suit), two main elements must be present: The act was intended to cause apprehension of harmful or offensive contact; and. The act indeed caused reasonable apprehension in the victim that harmful or offensive contact would occur.What are the two types of common assault? ›
39 Criminal Justice Act 1988. In day to day speak it is used to refer to the individual offences of both assault and battery. In legal terms, crimes will often involve an element of both assault and battery and the two are charged together as a common assault.What is assault and battery write a short note? ›
assault and battery, related but distinct crimes, battery being the unlawful application of physical force to another and assault being an attempt to commit battery or an act that causes another reasonably to fear an imminent battery.What is assault and battery in tort law? ›
Both assault and battery are the types of intentional tort. The assault is generally an attempt to harm someone else which also includes threats against other people. So, assault is a planned attempt to violently harm another person. While the battery is intentional touching another person without the person's consent.What are the essential requirements for assault? ›
- Physical Contact. Mere violent and abusive language does not constitute an assault. ...
- Intent. Ability to Commit a Battery. ...
- Apprehension of a Battery. ...
- Intent to Cause Apprehension. ...
- Apprehension of Imminent Harm.
As soon as you are accused of assault, you'll need to talk to a lawyer. They will get your story and will begin to work through the process with you. Evidence will be collected to benefit you and the situation analysed to determine how likely it is that you will receive jail time if convicted.Is assault by beating the same as battery? ›
Assault by beating refers to a common assault which involves physical force being applied (as opposed to the apprehension of physical force). It is sometimes referred to as battery.What is charged with battery? ›
When someone commits battery, it is often their intention to harm someone and they are successful in carrying this out physically. Your assault charges will include battery if your crime goes beyond intending or attempting to harm someone and you cause a physical injury to another person.Which case defines battery? ›
The definition and all elements of the offence of battery are set out in case law. The punishment for battery(maximum 6 months imprisonment) is set out in statute under s. 39 Criminal Justice Act 1988. The application of force need not be direct.Is tapping someone on the shoulder battery? ›
So, even if someone is particularly sensitive to any bodily contact by a stranger, it would not be considered battery to tap that person on the shoulder, even if he or she considers it offensive contact. Assault is sometimes used interchangeably with battery in everyday language.What are the 4 main types of sentencing? ›
Types of sentences include probation, fines, short-term incarceration, suspended sentences, which only take effect if the convict fails to meet certain conditions, payment of restitution to the victim, community service, or drug and alcohol rehabilitation for minor crimes.Does battery require physical contact? ›
Battery need not require body-to-body contact. Touching an object "intimately connected", to a person (such as an object he or she is holding) can also be battery. Furthermore, a contact may constitute a battery even if there is a delay between the defendant's act and the contact to the plaintiff's injury.Is grabbing someone's arm assault? ›
The law defines assault and battery as an unwanted touching that is done in a rude or angry manner. It can be as simple as shoving someone, blocking their way, spitting on them, grabbing someone's arm, throwing something (liquid or otherwise) at them, or even grabbing something out of their hand.Is bumping into someone assault? ›
Intent. There must be a deliberate action or intention to either use force or threaten force against someone else. For example, accidentally bumping into someone may be applying force to that person but because there was no intention to harm or threaten harm, it is not considered an assault.What are the four elements of battery? ›
Li-ion batteries consist of largely four main components: cathode, anode, electrolyte, and separator.
The state of California defines battery as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” Essentially, assault is attempted violence; battery is the violence itself. Often, assault and battery are charged together when a defendant attempts to injure someone and succeeds.What evidence is needed for battery? ›
Elements Needed to Prove Battery
There are four things that a prosecutor must be able to prove in order for a person to be convicted of battery: intent, contact, harm and damages.
Seven different components make up a typical household battery: container, cathode, separator, anode, electrodes, electrolyte, and collector.What are the factors of battery? ›
- Charge Current.
- State of Charge.
- Internal Resistance.
- Battery Temperature.
- Battery Age.
The individual is adequately informed before giving consent; The consent is specific; The consent is current; and. The individual has the capacity to understand and communicate their consent.What are the elements of assault What are the elements of battery? ›
Just as with assault, battery can be either a criminal act or subject one to civil liability. More specifically, the elements of battery are: (1) an act by a defendant; (2) an intent to cause harmful or offensive contact on the part of the defendant; and (3) harmful or offensive contact to the victim.What are the 4 defenses to a crime? ›
When it comes to criminal cases, there are usually four major criminal defense strategies that criminal attorneys employ: innocence, constitutional violations, self-defense, and insanity.What is the difference between the tort of assault and battery? ›
Assault refers to the wrong act of causing someone to reasonably fear imminent harm. This means that the fear must be something a reasonable person would foresee as threatening to them. Battery refers to the actual wrong act of physically harming someone.How is assault proven in court? ›
After reporting the assault to the police, the police will then carry out their investigation which may include the following; They may attempt to gather forensic evidence and any other evidence that will support your allegations, for example photos of injuries etc.What must a plaintiff prove to succeed in a claim for assault? ›
Examples of assault include: threatening a person with a knife, broken bottle , etc. The elements a plaintiff needs to prove to succeed in a claim of assault are: That there was threat to apply force: That the act will put a reasonable person in fear or battery.
A common question posed to our Criminal Defense attorneys is whether the police need physical evidence, including fingerprints, DNA or videos, to convict a defendant for a crime. The short answer is no, the police can convict you with nothing more than their own story about what you did.What are the 3 classification of offense? ›
The categories are usually "felony," "misdemeanor," and "infraction." Decisions on crime classification are made by state legislators; the determination focuses on the seriousness of the crime.What's the lowest form of assault? ›
A person is guilty of common assault if they either inflict violence on another person – however slight this might be – or make that person think they are about to be attacked.What is assault and battery? ›
Assault refers to the wrong act of causing someone to reasonably fear imminent harm. This means that the fear must be something a reasonable person would foresee as threatening to them. Battery refers to the actual wrong act of physically harming someone.What is assault and battery quizlet? ›
Assault is an attempt to commit a battery or the intentional placing of another in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery. Battery is the intentional use of force of violence upon the person of another or the intentional administering of a poison or nauseous liquid of substance of another.What case defines assault? ›
Fagan v MPC  1Q.B. 439 Case summary. The House of Lords set the definition of assault as: "an assault is committed where the defendant intentionally or recklessly causes the victim to apprehend immediate unlawful personal violence."What are the two types of assault? ›
- Common assault: when someone uses force, such as pushing or slapping, or makes threats of violence.
- Actual Bodily Harm (ABH): when you are injured as the result of an assault, for example bruised, scratched or bitten.
Battery is an unlawful application of force directly or indirectly upon another person or their personal belongings, causing bodily injury or offensive contact.What are the elements of battery? ›
There are four elements to battery: 1) a harmful or offensive touching; 2) to the victim's person; 3) intent; and 4) causation.
It includes both: Any act which causes another person to fear immediate personal violence (threat of force), and. A striking, touching or application of force against another person (use of force).