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What’s the difference between assault and battery?

May 23rd, 2013 at 12:04 pm

The term “assault and battery” is thrown around a lot: on the news, on TV, etc.  Although it may seem that the two words are interchangeable, there are some very important differences between them.

Lara May 22To begin, assault and battery are two distinct offenses. It is impossible for you to commit “assault and battery”; it’s one or the other.

According to the Illinois Criminal Code, there are two main categories of crime: “offenses directed against property,” and “offenses directed against the person.”  The later category includes homicide, kidnapping, sex offenses, and “bodily harm.”  Assault and battery are the two main “bodily harm” offenses.

The Illinois Criminal Code states that assault has occurred when somebody “engages in conduct which places another in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery.”  Essentially, assault is a threat, which could be real or simply implied, of a battery.

Battery, on the other hand, is when somebody “causes bodily harm to an individual,” or “makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with an individual.”  In order for the act to be considered criminal, the person committing it must act “intentionally or knowingly without legal justification.”

So the key is, then, that intent is required for an offense to be considered battery.  It is also true that although it is technically considered as a “bodily harm” offense, just plain contact can be enough.  There is one case in the past that considered a finger poke in the chest as a battery.

Simple assault is considered a Class C misdemeanor in Illinois, which results in a maximum $500 fine and 30 days in jail.   Aggravated assault on the other hand, is considered a more serious misdemeanor or even a felony.  Some factors that cause an assault to be aggravated are assault committed with a firearm, while hooded or masked, against certain victims, or at certain locations.

Simple battery, however, is considered a Class A misdemeanor, which results in a maximum $1,000 fine and 6 months to 1 year in jail.  The battery is considered aggravated if there is “great bodily harm,” or includes one of the factors referred to with aggravated assault.  Any aggravated battery is considered a felony.

The difference between assault and battery is pretty simple, but sometimes it’s difficult to remember all of the intricate details.  If you have questions about the difference between the two for your own legal purposes or simply out of curiosity, contact a Cook County criminal attorney to assist you.


Image Courtesy of artur84/

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