Understanding the difference between assault and battery

On Behalf of | May 17, 2023 | Violent Crimes

Many people think that assault and battery are the same charge. However, California treats them as separate crimes and their definitions vary.

Although one can face both an assault and a battery charge, one will only face a penalty for the greater crime, which is battery. If you are facing either of these charges, there are defense strategies which your legal team may apply.

Assault vs battery

Assault refers to acting in a willful way that would likely  result in violent injury to another individual. Battery refers to using violence or force on another in a wilful and unlawful manner. The major difference between the two is that battery requires physical contact with the victim, while assault does not.

Associated penalties

Both assault and battery offenses are misdemeanors. For simple assault, the punishment is jail time for up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000 or both. For battery, the punishment is jail time for up to six months, a fine of up to $2,000 or both. A convicted defendant may also have to complete a term of community service.

Both jail time and fines may increase if the victim of either crime was working in a particular occupation such as a firefighter, peace officer, health professional engaged in emergency medical treatment or lifeguard.

Potential defense strategies

Potential defenses include self-defense, defending personal property or defending another individual. Another defense is that you had consent to act aggressively, such as in playing a contact sport. Establishing that the battery was an accident without willful intent is also a legally recognized defense.

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