The crimes of assault and battery are criminally prohibited activities. They involve someone either threatening physical harm or actually inflicting physical harm upon another person. These offenses are taken very seriously by the criminal justice system and could result in having to spend some time in jail and on probation, or receiving a longer prison sentence.

While some jurisdictions still maintain assault and battery as separate offenses, others have merged them into a single offense. Hence, the well-known phrase of “assault and battery.” 

In addition, some states will consider certain aggravating circumstances for both the charging and sentencing guidelines to ensure that the punishment or remedy fits the level of the crime committed.

These factors are important to keep in mind. This is because each state may have its own definition and requirements for what it considers to be a criminal assault and battery. 

For a further explanation and to learn more about the proper definitions of criminal assault and battery that apply in your area, you should contact a local criminal defense attorney for assistance.  

Are Civil Assault Cases the Same as Criminal Assault Cases?

The legal definitions for criminal and civil assault are very similar. Both types of assault require that the defendant created a reasonable apprehension of imminent bodily harm in the victim and that the defendant intended to cause such a result to occur. The two are very different, however, when it comes to how their legal proceedings operate. 

In a civil assault case, the victim is responsible for filing the case in a civil court of law and hiring their own attorney to make their case. Here, the victim is typically seeking some type of remedy, such as a damages award or a form of injunctive relief. The alleged suspect cannot be sentenced to any prison time in a civil law court.

Additionally, the burden of proof in a civil assault case is also much lower than in a criminal one. The victim only needs to prove by “a preponderance of the evidence” standard that the party being sued committed the actual offense, which is simply a question of probability.

In a criminal assault case, the charges are prosecuted by the state. This means that the case is filed in a criminal court. A district attorney (or other legal representative of the state) will lead the case against the defendant as opposed to a victim’s privately hired counsel.

The prosecution will have to prove the criminal charge “beyond a reasonable doubt” due to the serious nature of the punishment that the defendant can receive. The punishment might be criminal fines, probation, jail time, and in the most extreme cases, a sentence to many years in prison. 

Finally, one other difference that the parties may encounter is that the legal defenses that are available to the defendant in a criminal case most likely will not be available to them during a civil lawsuit.

Is There a Difference Between Criminal Assault and Battery?

Criminal assault is generally defined in one of two ways: either as an intent to commit criminal battery, or as the intentional creation (other than by mere words) of a reasonable apprehension (in the mind of the victim) of imminent bodily harm.

This second definition might seem confusing, but all it really means is that the defendant intended to create a situation that made their victim aware of the possibility that the defendant is about to inflict immediate bodily harm upon them.

An example that is commonly used to demonstrate such a scenario is where the defendant is holding a deadly weapon and pointing it at the victim in a way that makes them believe that the defendant is about to harm them.

The key component of this definition is that the victim’s belief of the impending harm has to be one that creates a sense of immediate danger. It cannot be an event that will happen far off in the future or at a later time, otherwise the action will not be considered a criminal assault.

Battery, on the other hand, is typically defined as an unlawful application of force to another that results in bodily injury or offensive touching. The contact does not need to be intentional, but actual contact does need to occur for it to be considered battery.

As noted above, many jurisdictions now combine the two into one offense since they often both contribute to the official criminal act. 

What is an Aggravated Assault and Battery?

Most states now have enacted statutes that elevate assault and battery charges and the corresponding punishment when extraordinary circumstances exist. If these conditions are found, then the defendant can be charged with the more serious crime of aggravated assault or battery. This usually happens when the assault or battery is particularly awful.

Some factors that may lead to a charge of aggravated assault or battery include:

  • Whether the suspect used a weapon during the assault, (e.g., a gun);
  • When the victim is what is legally considered a vulnerable person, such as a child, a pregnant woman, or an elderly individual; and
  • If the victim sustained severe harm or serious and long-lasting injury.

When any of these situations arise, the prosecutor will often consider raising the charges. In the event that a victim eventually dies from their injuries, then manslaughter or murder will likely be the charge that is applied. 

How are Assault and Battery Crimes Punished?

As previously mentioned, every jurisdiction has their own sentencing guidelines for when a person is convicted of an assault or battery crime. First time offenders who commit simple, non-threatening acts may be sentenced to a short stay in jail, as well as community service or probation. The more severe the attack, the higher the punishment will be.

For those who have committed greater offenses that cause significant injury to the victim, their outcome will most likely result in having to serve prison time. Also, if the charges were for an aggravated crime, the sentence will be for a much longer term.

If you are concerned about charges brought against you for an assault and battery crime, you should contact a local criminal defense lawyer in your state. A lawyer will be able to address any questions about your case, including how the criminal laws in your area are defined and what the potential punishment guidelines are for your charges.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with Assault and Battery Charges?

Although a criminal defendant has the right to a state-appointed lawyer, it is often recommended that they hire their own defense counsel. A defendant who selects their own lawyer usually feels more comfortable with that individual. In turn this may help the parties develop a good professional relationship and can lead to a better outcome for the case. 

If you are facing criminal assault and battery charges, an experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to guide you through either process, inform you of your legal rights, negotiate a plea bargain if necessary, and represent your best interests in court.