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What is the difference between assault and battery?

Although the terms assault and battery are usually used interchangeably, they differ in many ways. Like the definition of most criminal charges, assault and battery are interpreted differently from state to state. Essentially, for either an assault or battery to have been committed, a person must have physically hit, tried to hit or threatened someone else.

Both assault and battery are two completely separate legal concepts and require that distinct elements are present before a charge. To break it down in simplest terms, assault is a threat to injure, while battery is injuring. Since an assault is defined as a criminal act, it requires a direct action that makes another individual fear for their safety. Spoken threats are typically not seen as assault, but when compounded with a threatening action or motion, they can be. In addition, an assault charge also requires intent. If an individual is caught doing something others see as dangerous or threatening, yet has no intention of ever hurting anyone, they may be able to avoid an assault charge.

In contrast to assault, battery requires that harmful or offensive touching has taken place for it to be charged. Essentially, for an individual to be charged with battery, they must have made contact with another individual in an offensive or harmful way. However, for someone to be charged with battery, intent is usually not required. Since the contact has already been committed, it could be argued that the intent and action are the same.

Some jurisdictions combine assault and battery charges into one single offense. It is also possible to increase the severity of the offense by adding an aggressive charge to battery or assault. Just as these two charges vary greatly from state to state, so may their defense. If you are facing assault or battery charges, it may be best for you to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney. With their help, you may be able to greatly reduce or eliminate your charges.

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