What is the difference between assault and battery?

This article will explain what the difference between assault and battery is.  As with anything in the law, the difference lies within their respective definitions.

An assault is any reasonable threat to a person. Believe it or not, an assault doesn’t actually mean a person needs to be physically harmed or touched. However, an immediate threat must be present in order for a person to claim an assault.  Some examples of assault are pointing a gun at a person or an item threateningly that could be used as a possible weapon.  These acts are considered to be assault.

On the other hand, to claim battery does require that the person be physically touched.  As a distinction, for an act to be considered both “assault and battery,” a person must both threaten and then commit physical harm. If a victim is not touched, then it is not battery.

It is interesting to note that assault charges typically do not stand alone. Courts tend to try suspects who have caused physical harm instead of only intent to harm.  After all, proving contact is generally easier to in court than proving a threat.

It can be difficult to go after a person for being verbally abusive or who has made verbal threats. In these cases, filing a restraining order can be helpful protective measure. They are easier to obtain against a person who has committed verbal assault. The reason a restraining order can be so helpful is because if an assailant violated the order by causing physical harm, the violation would most likely be immediately upgraded to assault and battery, due to the fact that the restraining order was already issued.

The pressure of criminal prosecution is a great disincentive for potential assailants.  This is applicable even in middle school. An assault charge reminder from a concerned parent can be a good reason to get their kid to stop bullying.

For self-defense claims, having and intent to harm must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  If this can be clearly proven, it is possible to have assault and battery charges dropped.  For example, if a victim believes they are at a substantial risk of being harmed, that victim could attack first instead of waiting to be attacked.

These are some simple definitions, examples and applications of the difference between assault and battery.  I hope they help you to distinguish some basic understandings of the law and help to keep you and anyone you know safely out of trouble.