The term “assault and battery” is a very familiar one, but the differences may escape most people. We’re so used to hearing them as a pair that many Americans don’t know what the difference between the two is and how those differences affect the consequences of the crimes. Knowing what assault and battery are and how they differ can be important to establishing your innocence. Discussing your charge with a criminal attorney can be an important step in defending yourself.


In the United States, assault is a crime of violence in which violence is threatened against someone, and usually followed up by the display of force. For example, if someone threatens you and pulls out a knife, that person has committed assault. Additionally, assault may also include any threat of physical contact. Other countries may define assault differently.

Assault and BatteryAssault is the threat of attack, not the attack itself. You do not have to be even touched for the other person to have committed assault. Let’s say you’re watching a game at your local sports bar and another patron has had too much to drink. He gets aggressive towards you and begins threatening you with violence, saying that if you don’t get out of his face, he’s going to hit you, raising his hands threateningly. Even though he has not actually hit you, his verbal threats and the brandishing of his fists means that he has committed assault and can be arrested.


Battery, however, is defined as the actual violent contact against someone. Depending on the circumstances, it may be either an offense or a criminal act. To prove battery, the prosecutor must establish that an illegal display of force has been applied to another person which results in injury or offensive contact. To put this in layman’s terms, the lawyer must show that the defendant has violently attacked the victim.

Battery is often preceded by assault, and both crimes can occur in the same act. If the person at the sports bar had followed through on his threat and attacked you, he would have committed both assault and battery. However, battery does not always occur with assault. If an attacker jumps you and hits you without threatening you, only battery has been committed, not assault.