People tend to say the phrase “assault and battery” as if they’re a single offense – but they’re not.
In this state, assault and battery are actually two separate crimes, with vastly different potential consequences.
What’s an assault?
An assault is an intentional threat that is designed to make the victim afraid of actual, imminent harm. In other words, the threat must seem real, be communicated to the victim and be reasonably credible.
For example, if somebody is bothering your girlfriend at a bar and you stand up, face off with them and offer to put them in the hospital with a beating, that’s a genuine and intentional threat of harm. While you may have some valid defenses, you could potentially be charged with simple assault – even if you never raised a fist and never actually touched the other party.
What’s a battery?
A battery, by comparison, involves actual physical contact with the victim against their will, whether or not it causes physical harm.
For example, imagine this: During the encounter with the person bothering your girlfriend, you reach out and lightly punctuate your threat by poking them in the chest. That’s a simple battery.
What are the penalties?
A simple assault is a second degree misdemeanor, which can lead to a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail, while simple battery is a first degree misdemeanor, which can cost you a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
Both assault and battery can become “aggravated,” or more severe, depending upon the situation. Aggravated charges are usually applied when a weapon is involved, the victim is a peace officer, first responder or gets seriously injured. At that point, you would be facing felony-level charges.
If you’ve been accused of either assault or battery (or both), it’s wisest to explore your defense options.