The Basics of Assault & Battery

what is assault and battery

In 2015, over 1.1 million violent crimes occurred in the United States, and more than half of those crimes were assaults. Below are the basics of both the civil and criminal acts of assault and battery.

Assault vs. Battery

“Assault” generally defined as an attempt to injure someone else, and in some circumstances, can include threats or threatening behavior against others. Assault has three elements (1) intent; (2) apprehension of harmful contact; and (3) causation. Assault typically does not require that physical contact actually occur; however, words by themselves are not enough to constitute assault—there must be an accompanying action or threat of an accompanying action and a reasonable belief the individual will fulfill the threat.

“Battery” is an intentional, physical act that results in harmful or offensive contact with a person without their consent. Although what constitutes battery varies from state to state, generally to establish battery, three elements must be proven: (1) unlawful application of force; (2) to another person; and, (3) resulting in bodily injury or offensive touching.

While often charged hand-in-hand, assault is distinguishable from battery because with assault, there is no requirement of actual contact, just a legitimate threat of harm to the victim. 

Civil vs. Criminal

Both assault and battery can give rise to criminal charges, as well as civil lawsuits. In civil suits, assault and battery are considered “intentional torts.” An intentional tort is a civil wrongdoing resulting from the intentional act of the wrongdoer. The plaintiff in a civil case must only prove that the defendant is liable for damages caused by the assault or battery. If successful, the plaintiff may recover damages for physical and emotional harm, lost income, and other losses arising from the assault.

In a criminal assault or battery case, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant committed the crime, and in doing so, must establish that the elements of assault and battery outlined above took place. If found guilty of criminal assault or battery, the penalties can include monetary fines, jail time, or both.

Defenses to assault and battery

The most common defense to assault and battery is self-defense. The elements of self-defense vary from state-to-state, but generally, the accused must show: 1) a threat of unlawful force or harm against them by the victim; 2) a legitimate perceived fear of harm; 3) no harm or provocation on their part; and 4) no reasonable chance of retreating or escaping the situation.

Other defenses to assault and battery are defense of others and defense of property. Defense of others is available when, similar to self-defense, there is a perceived fear of harm to another person. Defense of property is available when the accused acted to prevent his or her property from being stolen or damaged. The defense of property defense is commonly used when someone breaks into another person’s home, and the homeowner uses physical force against the intruder.

If you have been the victim of assault and/or battery or are being accused assault and/or battery, it is important to obtain proper legal assistance to help you properly address the matter. Find an experienced attorney by quickly posting a short summary of your legal needs on, and let the perfect attorney come to you!

Do You Need An Attorney?

If so, post a short summary of your legal needs to our site and let attorneys submit applications to fulfill those needs. No time wasted, no hassle, no confusion, no cost.

Posted - 04/06/2017