When you're accused of assault or battery, you may believe you understand the charges you're facing. However, there is a real difference between the two charges, and knowing the difference between them can be paramount in your case.
Usually, people are charged for assault and battery together, but sometimes they are one or the other. The differences between the two might seem minor, but assault and battery are distinct. Here are a few reasons why.
1. Assault can include threats
It's a reality that you may never even touch another person yet still face a charge. Assault definitions vary by state, but it is possible to face charges for assault due to threats or threatening behavior. No contact is necessary for an assault, but contact always has to occur for a battery charge.
2. Intentions matter
If you go to the bar intending to get into a fight with a specific person, then you're going to be much more likely to face charges than someone who reacts to the actions of those around them suddenly in a violent manner. For assault, intent is required, but the intent can be a "general intent." This means that you can't accidentally assault someone, but you can act in a way that puts others in danger with actions you should know are dangerous.
3. Battery requires intention and action
Battery charges can't be placed against someone who didn't intend to hurt another person, and they can't be used to penalize someone who only threatened others. Battery is specific in that it requires touching, and that touching has to be intentional. Additionally, the touch has to be offensive or harmful. The victim must not have consented to being touched by the other person.
Here's an example. If two teens are in a fighting tournament, then there would be no justification for assault or battery charges, even if one gets hurt. Similarly, if they're at home and decide to fight one another, there was permission granted by the party who got hurt, whoever that may be.
In those cases, battery wouldn't apply. However, someone who is attacked on the street with no warning would have an opportunity to claim that they were battered. This is an important distinction to understand as someone charged with one of the above crimes.
Your rights are on the line when you face charges for any crime, but violent crimes are particularly harmful to your reputation. Knowing the laws can help you better defend yourself.