The Difference Between Assault and Battery

I was asked to explain the difference between assault and battery the other day, to a woman who said that a Judge on a TV court show said there was no difference. I’m not surprised.

These are crimes of actual or proposed violence and although the punishments may vary slightly from state to state these are the regularly accepted definitions.

Suppose you and your buddy Bob are having an argument. Suddenly Bob says to you: “I’m gonna beat the dog crap outta you!” This constitutes Terroristic Threats. (The spoken, or otherwise communicated, threat of the use of force.) It is a crime, which means the police can arrest him whether you press charges or not, and can be a misdemeanor or a felony.

You get mad and, instead of walking away and calling the police as the law says to do, you swing on him, but don’t hit him. This constitutes assault. (The display of force which could result in the touching a person in an unlawful or demeaning manner.) It, too, is a crime and can be a misdemeanor or felony.

Bob decides you were going to hit him, and picks up a two by four and shakes it at you, or even swings at you without hitting you. This constitutes assault with a dangerous or deadly weapon. This, also, is a crime and is generally a felony.
Instead of walking away and calling the police, you deck Bob with a right hook (or another two by four or other object.) This constitutes battery. (The wrongful contact with a person without his consent that entails injury or offence.) This is a crime and generally a felony and is also a tort, which means Bob can sue you for damages.

Just then, Donna walks up to see what’s going on, and you put your hand or her rear. If she didn’t ask you to do that, and it offends her that you did it, that also can constitute battery.

Other degrees of assault are:
? Assault with intent to commit manslaughter. (Not meaning to kill but could have.) This is a felony.
? Assault with intent to commit murder. (Would have killed him if someone hadn’t pulled you off him.) Also a felony.
? Assault with intent to commit rape. This is a felony.
? Sexual Assault. (Such as to a minor or anyone who doesn’t want to be or shouldn’t be sexually contacted.) This is a felony.

What about self defense? The law is fairly clear on this. If you can’t get away from your attacker or your attacker is hitting someone like your wife or kid, then it’s self-defense.

Here’s the rub. You have to prove the element that makes it self-defense. The police can arrest you and detain you until the District Attorney and your lawyer can straighten it out. Even then, if you used excessive force and killed your attacker, rather than just subdue him, you could very well face murder charges, or manslaughter at the least.

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