Assault and battery are two charges that are often combined; however, they are technically two separate acts. One is the mere threat of severe physical harm, while the other is that actual act of violence. Most of these minor incidents will result in a misdemeanor. An aggravated assault and battery, however, will result in a felony. Penalties will largely depend on the circumstances and how damaging the harm was. Here’s the details on how these crimes are charged and penalized for most assault and battery convictions.
What is Assault?
Assault is as simple as even a threat that rightfully leads an individual to fear they’re in immediate harm. It also must be intentionally done by the perpetrator, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a threat of severe harm. In short, assault is an intentional threat that causes reasonable threat of harm to any number of people, no matter how small the harm.
However, it isn’t quite as simple as just saying a threat to someone. There must be an action, a weapon, a number of people involved, or some other circumstance that provides evidence that the attacker intends on following through with their threat.
Additionally, if someone attempts to inflict harm to someone but fails to do so, it can still be considered assault. This is also sometimes known as attempted battery.
What is Battery?
This crime differs from its partner conviction in that this requires an actual physical contact without consent. That means force isn’t even necessary here; just a simple touch without permission can be considered battery. Further, severe harm or traumatization don’t even need to occur for a battery conviction. It can also be actions that are considered offensive, as long as there’s a valid reason for someone to be offended.
This also requires that there be intent behind the act, so hurting someone purely on accident doesn’t result in a battery charge. This doesn’t include cases where criminal recklessness or negligence are involved, however.
Assault and Battery Degrees
First degree assault – This is the most severe level of assault, resulting in a felony, so it comes with the hardest penalties. Usually a conviction of first degree assault results from an assault with severe harm, showing an extreme indifference for the lives of those around them. Severe harm can often refer to damage such as disfigurement, amputation, or disability. This degree can also include an assault involving a deadly weapon, and is also called aggravated assault.
Second degree assault – The differing factors between first and second degree assault are typically the intent or level of bodily harm that occurs from the act. Lesser harm, use of a deadly weapon without severe harm, or harm as a result of recklessness typically result in this conviction. This charge is also a felony.
Third degree assault – With the least serious punishment, an assault is considered third degree if it’s attempted battery or results in non-physical injury. This can also involve a crime where intention to commit the harm isn’t quite as obvious. It’s typically a misdemeanor versus a felony.
Difference Between Assault and Battery
The biggest difference between assault and battery is that assault only requires the intention of hurting someone, while battery requires that the act be followed through with.
They are often charged as one act, as most times assault occurs with battery, but not always the other way around. If someone has intentionally hurt an individual (battery), then it’s easier to prove that the individual also experienced the fear of a threat on their safety. Conversely, it can be proven that battery happened but not assault when an attack is a surprise, with no prior indication or threat of it happening. This means assault did not occur, even if there was battery.
However, more often than not, a battery conviction will be accompanied with an assault charge, but they’re pretty much considered to be a single crime in most jurisdictions.
Assault and Battery Crimes
Like most other felonies, there’s several types of assault and battery crimes that can occur
Simple Assault – Quite like how it sounds, this is an assault that doesn’t result in severe damage to the individual, and there wasn’t a weapon involved. This is often what a more mild bar fight and the such will result in and is a misdemeanor conviction.
Aggravated Assault – This is a much more serious form of assault, which can involve an incident with – or even just the threat of – a weapon, sexual or other more serious crimes, severe injury, an elderly victim, or a minor. This conviction is a felony.
Sexual Assault – Further discussed here, sexual assault is any kind of sexual act – even just unwanted sexual touching – that is forced. Because of the force used, sexual assault charges are often accompanied by assault and battery charges, and, more often than not, will result in a felony conviction (or several).
Assault with a Deadly Weapon – As it sounds, this type of assault requires a deadly weapon to be involved. However, the term deadly weapon can be a loose one. Anything that can inflict serious harm or death can be considered a deadly weapon, including: a rock, golf club, glass, car, or anything else that can provide enough of an impact to cause severe injury to the victim. This is always charged as a felony as well. The conviction may come with heavier penalties especially when extreme weapons are used, such as acid, machine guns, and semi-automatic rifles. If these are illegally obtained, it may also come with a felony charge for that as well.
What Makes it Aggravated Assault and Battery?
There are several cases that result in an aggravated assault and/or battery charge, and they can differ greatly by case and state:
- Including any incident resulting in severe injury, this can also be accompanied by a murder or manslaughter charge if the assault results in death.
- The use of a deadly weapon – along with its own charge – can often result in an aggravated assault case. Like an assault with a deadly weapon charge, this can include any item that can inflict serious harm on a victim.
- A judge will also look at repeat offenses when determining if an assault is aggravated or not. A third strike can lead to this conviction, especially if there seems to be a risk of it happening a fourth or more times. This is also going to result in longer prison sentences and/or higher fines.
- Vulnerability of the victim can also be a factor; a crime against a child, elderly person, or a physically or mentally disabled individual can boost a charge up to aggravated assault. Also involving the victim, an aggravated assault may also include a crime against someone like a police officer, fire fighter, teacher, and others. Hate crimes may often fall into this category as well.
- If they are able to prove that the perpetrator had an intention of severely injuring their victim, even if it didn’t occur, that could also raise their charge to an aggravated assault.
Proving Assault and Battery
The first factor that has to be proven to charge with assault is that the victim had a reasonable fear to their safety. For battery, they’ll have to show that the attack and harm actually happened, as well as that the accused was the one who committed the attack. If there’s an assault with a deadly weapon charged involved, then it’ll be necessary to prove the weapon was used and that it could cause serious harm to the victim.
Much like a sexual assault, this is also on the prosecutor to prove that each part of the crime happened intentionally (or with enough recklessness to count as intentional).
Assault and Battery Defenses
The most common defense for this crime is self defense or of others, claiming that they had been attacked first. However, this requires them to also prove that there was a threat or harm made against them causing actual fear, they weren’t provoked, and that there was no way to get out of the situation. This can also apply to defense of one’s property.
Intent is a necessary component to arguing that assault and battery occurred, so if the defendant can prove that it was accidental and not displaying recklessness for human life, or the accused was not mentally able to hurt someone on purpose, they may be able to prevent an assault and battery charge.
Consent it also a factor here, as there are cases when someone has consented to what happened, and those do not qualify as a assault and battery charge. They do have to consent to all parts and set the limits of the act, and breaking that is considered assault and battery.
Another one that might help avoid a conviction is being able to prove that the attacker was not the defendant. This, however, may not be possible in a case with a lot of evidence.
When it comes to federal or state assault and battery charges, it is either a felony with much more serious penalties and time in prison, or a misdemeanor with much lesser consequences.
What determines it being a felony or a misdemeanor relies heavily on that amount of harm done, whether it was aggravated, if there was a deadly weapon, and more.
The aggravated assault charge can also lead to worse penalties depending on the victim, such as police officers or disabled individuals. Relationships between the assaulter and victim might also be considered if it applies to domestic abuse, which might come with its own additional charges.
Adversely, if the convicted shows true remorse and a desire to serve their justice to not make the same mistake again, a judge may find some mercy and opt for a lesser penalty, or maybe a chance to go on probation sooner.
Example of a State’s Penalties
For example, Texas, a hard-on-crime state, takes a stance against crime by ranging their assault and battery crimes from a minor crime of a Class C misdemeanor, all the way to a first degree felony. These penalties can range from a fine of $500 to a $10,000+ – considering the factors discussed.
Texas has the following penalties – not to include additional charges that may accompany the assault and battery charge – assigned to these misdemeanors and felonies and their respective categories:
Class C misdemeanor: Fine of up to $500.
Class B misdemeanor: Up to 180 days in jail, fine of up to $2,000.
Class A misdemeanor: Up to 1 year in jail, fine of up to $4,000.
Third degree felony: Up to 10 years in prison, fine of up to $10,000
Second degree felony: 2 to 20 years in prison, fine of up to $10,000.
First degree felony: 5 years to life in prison, plus fine.https://statelaws.findlaw.com/texas-law/texas-assault-and-battery-laws.html
Find more about your state laws here.
The end of legal trouble may not end with the state and/or federal court system, as victims often still have the option of pursuing civil charges as well, as long as they were injured or have trauma revolving around the assault. Just because they don’t win the criminal case does not mean they won’t win the civil case, however.
These civil cases of assault and battery are often lesser forms of abuse, as those are more likely to be criminally prosecuted. In fact, civil battery may be as simple as unwanted touching, even if force isn’t really applied. Unlike criminal charges, intent does not need to be proven here, just the fact that the victim had the fear that the offender would commit the act or something worse, making this a choice for some victims of accidents. There isn’t as much of a burden to prove intent or even recklessness. The key is whether the victim felt threatened.
The perpetrator may find themselves having to pay medical bills, lawyer fees, workers comp, and more for their victim(s).
What Other Consequences Come From a Felony Assault and Battery Charge?
Felons will find themselves not able to use their Fourteenth Amendment rights, which is what gives them the right to vote. This includes their right to hold or run for public office, as well as to serve on a jury. They also cannot get some types of official documents, such as a visa or professional licenses.
Those with a felony conviction also cannot purchase, own, or even use any type of firearm. They cannot qualify for government assistance any longer, including welfare. Non-citizens that commit felonies also face the risk of being deported to their home country. Finally, a felony stays on record for seven years in some states and forever in others. While employers are not allowed to discriminate based on a felony charge, it will become harder to find a job, as there tends to be a prejudice.
This charge can also be accompanied with a stigma that may make it harder to even obtain housing in certain apartment complexes or other aspects of life. All of these consequences go to show that even after serving a sentence, someone with a felony on their record will still face the consequences for years to come.
Domestic Assault and Battery
More commonly known as domestic violence or intimate partner violence, this is a type of the crime that may be pursued in conjunction with or in place of an assault and battery charge. A 2012 report from the National Center for Victims of Crime, shows that most aggravated assault cases for women especially are often committed by their partners, with males reporting their assaults were from their partner 4.9 percent of the time, compared to women’s 23 percent.
Similar to the way assaults may be considered aggravated if against a vulnerable individual (such a an employee or a child), these convictions show a certain amount of violation of that which elevates this crime to a higher degree. This charge can result in a more severe conviction, potentially with longer prison times.
In an assault and battery case, proving intent and the threat of considerable harm is enough to prove that a crime occurred. Many other aggravating factors exist, which may also raise the penalty or seriousness of the crime. This can involve deadly weapons, persons involved, and how severe the bodily or emotional damage was. These can carry penalties ranging from hundreds of dollars in fines for lesser misdemeanors and life in prison for severe felonies. Even then, they may face financial consequences in civil court as well. While they’re both often prosecuted together, these two different crimes make up one of the most severe types of violent felonies.