It is common to hear that someone is being charged with both, assault and battery, but these are actually two different offenses. Since assault and battery are some of the most common criminal and civil cases, it is important to better understand the difference between the two distinct charges.

Assault is an action that causes the victim a reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm. Assault does not require that the perpetrator actually cause physical harm to the victim, but rather that they had the intention of causing fear in the plaintiff. Generally, threats alone do not constitute an assault unless they are accompanied by another action or manifestation that indicates the threat will be immediately carried out. For example, threatening, the next time that you breathe I will punch you, is likely an assault because the victim must breathe in the imminent future so they fear immediate bodily harm. However, simply threatening, I am going to kill you next month, is not likely an assault because it does not suggest that the threat will happen immediately.

Battery is the intentional infliction of bodily harm onto another. Battery is distinguished from assault because the victim does not need to have knowledge that the harm is about to occur. For example, pushing someone from behind is a battery, but not an assault, because the victim was not in fear of being pushed. Rather they just suffered the bodily harm of being pushed. Battery also requires that the perpetrator know and understand that their conduct will likely cause bodily harm. Without this element of knowledge, there is no way to prove that the battery was intentional and not an accident.

Assault and battery are frequently charged together because it is common for a victim to be in reasonable fear of harm immediately before the harm occurs. When charged as a criminal offense, assault and battery is generally charged as two separate misdemeanor offenses. The criminal penalties vary depending on the jurisdiction and the severity of the offense. In most cases, the person who is arrested can utilize the bail bonds system to get out of jail before any trial or conviction.

Assault and battery are also intentional torts. This means that the victim of assault and battery may bring a civil suit against a perpetrator for economic damages in addition to any criminal charges. Some examples of economic damages that may be recovered are compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of income.

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