Assault and battery are a combination of threat and physical harm. The severity of harm caused decides the charge of an assault and battery case. It could either be a misdemeanor or a felony according to common law.
Any reasonable threat to a person is assault while battery is defined as use of force against another with intent of causing physical harm without his consent. In other words, assault is the attempt to commit battery.
An assault can cause fear of impending violence in a person even though there is no actual violence inflicted. Battery on the other hand trespasses into the comfortable personal space of a person without his consent and causes him bodily harm.
Threatening an individual verbally is assault but hitting the person is battery. Assault and battery usually occur together. Behavior such as pointing a gun at someone or waving a potential weapon constitutes assault. As soon as waving advances to beating, the crime becomes one of assault and battery. Physical contact with the body graduates the crime of assault into one of assault and battery. The elements of battery are
- a volitional act,
- done for the purpose of causing an harmful or offensive contact with another person or under circumstances that make such contact substantially certain to occur,
- which causes such contact.
Example of assault and battery
Throwing a rock at someone for the purpose of hitting him is battery if the rock in fact strikes the person and is an assault if the rock misses. The fact that the person may have been unaware that the rock had been thrown at him is irrelevant under this definition of assault.
Some jurisdictions have incorporated the definition of civil assault into the definition of the crime making it a criminal assault to intentionally place another person in "fear" of a harmful or offensive contact. "Fear" means merely apprehension - awareness rather than any emotional state.
Both assault and battery are criminal offenses tried as a misdemeanor or felony based on the seriousness of damage caused. Assault cases rarely stand alone in court of law since threats are difficult to prove. Physical injury can be easily established and hence battery can be proved. Battery essentially involves assault but an assault does not necessarily involve battery. The penalties rendered vary according to laws of jurisdiction but both assault and battery are regulated by statutes.
Aggravated assault is the display of willingness or ability to carry out the threat while aggravated battery is making physical contact or touching the person with or without weapons in order to cause bodily harm or restrain.