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What is the difference between assault and battery?

When someone is facing felony charges, the person can feel a whirlwind of emotions. They may be in jail as they await criminal proceedings, the may be out on bail, they may be dealing with the stigma of false accusations or the guilt and remorse for a mistake. Often people facing these serious charges are thrown into an unfamiliar legal world where very specific rules apply. They may not understand exactly why they are facing specific charges or even where to begin their defense.

Often, only people with years of specialized training understand the legal system. Yet, people still need to make difficult decisions quickly. In these cases, it is important to understand exactly what people have been charged with and why. One area that can cause confusion is the difference between assault and battery. These two crimes can be felonies and are often closely related.

A battery occurs when another person experiences unwanted touching from another person. Typically, to be charged with battery, the person must have intended to touch another person in a harmful or offensive way without consent from the other person. Under this definition, a battery can occur even if the other person does not suffer actual harm from the unwanted touch.

An assault is related to battery but is slightly different. An assault occurs when an attempt has been made to harm another person. Here, the accused must have intended to harm the other person. However, no physical touch is required. Therefore, as long as the other person had a reasonable fear that harm was going to occur, an assault has likely taken place.

This blog post cannot provide specific legal advice about whether an assault or battery has taken place. However, an attorney can help people understand felony charges like assault and battery so that they can formulate a specific strategy to obtain a favorable result.

Source:, "Assault and Battery Overview," accessed on Dec. 21, 2014

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