What is the Difference Between Assault and Battery?

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What is the Difference Between Assault and Battery?


You have probably heard these two crimes mentioned together: “assault and battery.” However, they are separate crimes. Assault and battery often occur together, which causes confusion—so what is the difference between assault and battery?


What is Assault? 

In Arizona, assault charges are usually categorized as misdemeanors. They can be charged from a Class 1 to a Class 3 misdemeanor, or labeled as aggravated assault, which can be a felony depending on the circumstances. Depending on jurisdiction, assault is defined in different ways.

It may surprise you to learn that physical injury does not have to take place in an assault. Typically, assault is defined as an intentional threat or risk of harm to another person. Put simply, assault occurs when a victim is placed in fear of impending danger. If a person verbally threatens another with physical harm, but does not actually put their hands on the victim, this is seen as assault. If a victim feels they have been placed in reasonable threat of danger, the police may make an assault charge. This charge exists in order to prevent the assaulter from physically harming the victim. This is a key difference between assault and battery. It’s important to note, however, that words alone do not equal assault.

Assault Example: Jordan is swinging a baseball bat. He yells out to Tina that he will hit her in the head with the bat. Tina ducks and misses the next swing. Even though no contact was made, this is assault.


What is Battery?

Battery differs from assault because it occurs when physical contact is made. Damaging or objectionable contact, where no consent was given, is classified as battery. In other words, if someone commits physical harm or unwanted, offensive touching, they may be charged with battery.

The four elements of battery are: 


  1. contact that is harmful or offensive 
  2. intent to harm 
  3. causation
  4. a victim     


Battery Example:  George and Hank are in a fight. They’re both yelling. When George turns around in an attempt to end the fight, Hank hits him in the back of the head. This is battery. However, if Hank’s friends stop him from hitting George, and George doesn’t see the threat of danger, this is neither battery or assault. No charge can be made. 

There are some cases where battery is justified, including:


  • defense of self or others
  • defense of property 
  • consent 
  • lack of evidence 
  • making a citizen’s arrest


Contact Defense Attorney Todd Coolidge 

If you are in Arizona and facing charges of assault, aggravated assault, battery, or you feel that you’ve been falsely accused, you’re going to need an expert attorney on your side. 

Todd Coolidge has successfully negotiated for an Arizona client with charges of aggravated assault who was facing ten years in prison and got his sentence reduced down to mere probation. You can watch the client’s testimony. For the same expert help, contact the office of Todd Coolidge today.


Photo by Quinn Buffing on Unsplash