If you have watched any legal dramas, it is likely that you have heard the phrase “assault and battery” before. In fact, it is not uncommon for people to mention them at the exact same time as if it is a singular charge or there is no difference between the two.
However, even though it is common for shows to mention in the same breath, they are distinct offenses. According to FindLaw, assault is an attempt or threat to hurt somebody else, while battery is the actual act of making contact with another person in a matter perceived as threatening.
What is assault?
A good way to categorize assault is that assault is an attempt at battery. Keep in mind that it is not enough to merely threaten somebody to receive an assault charge. There must be an element of action involved with the situation where the other party has reasonable concern to be afraid for their safety.
However, the courts may charge you with assault even if you do not make contact with another person. If you act in a way that the courts consider dangerous to others, the courts may charge you with assault. Even if you are merely attempting to scare another person with no actual attempt to harm, this may be enough for an assault charge.
What is battery?
Surprisingly enough, battery does not require an attempt to cause harm to the victim. Essentially, it involves offensive or harmful contact. The most obvious example of this is punching or kicking, but it may involve other actions such as spitting.
It is not uncommon for assault and battery to happen at the same time, which is why they are often mentioned together.