Understanding the Difference Between Assault and Battery

There are many instances where a fight between two or more parties may break out in the heat of the moment. Physical fights may or may not include weapons and not all fights result in harm or bodily injury. For differentiation purposes, the courts use two different terms: assault and battery. Many people do not know the legal definition of these terms, and even use the terms interchangeably despite having different weight and meaning in court. This article will help you to understand and differentiate between battery and assault.


Assault is used to indicate a threat of bodily harm to another person joined with an apparent and present ability to cause harm. Contrary to common belief, an individual may be charged with assault even if he or she did not have the opportunity to cause bodily harm. Simply making a threat and demonstrating the ability to cause harm is enough to result in an arrest for assault. Threats alone do not qualify as assault, but threat coupled with a raised hand or weapon, for instance, may be sufficient.  In an assault charge, knowing that there was an attempt to harm is very important. This means that there must be evidence to assume the individual was purposefully attempting to cause bodily harm to another party, regardless of whether any bodily harm occurred.

Intent in assault is inferred based on the defendant’s actions. If it is reasonable to assume that an act will cause harm as a result, then the defendant preparing to carry out the act is inferred to be intending to cause harm. Holding a knife to a victim’s throat, for instance, is an act where the defendant is certainly aware of the apprehension it will cause in the victim. The action must produce a reasonable fear of harm in the victim in order to qualify as assault and sued for damages.

What is needed to prove assault:

  1. Intention
  2. Reasonable Apprehension
  3. Harm


Battery is what many people mistake for assault. It is the unwanted physical contact or bodily harm from one person to another. Battery and assault are often combined in physical altercations. For example, an individual makes a threat to another party to do bodily harm and then carries out the threat with unwanted physical contact. The two terms used together can indicate a scenario in which both threat and violence was involved.  However, it is important to note that not all forms of battery are harmful. The unwanted contact does not have to be body-to-body, nor does it have to cause bodily injury. It can sufficiently count as battery if an individual offensively touches another person, even with the use of an object. A person can prove battery if they are able to prove that unwanted physical contact occurred.

The law office of Frank P. Remsen regularly handles cases involving assault and battery. For more information and to speak with a Lake County criminal defense attorney, contact us at (352)-269-8226.