Distinguishing Between Assault and Battery

The charges of assault and battery are so frequently presented together that many individuals have a difficult time separating them and understanding them as distinct entities. In their most basic definitions, assault is understood as the threat of an act of physical violence and battery is the actual act of physical violence against another individual. However, to fully grasp these two terms, we will explore each in a bit more depth.


Assault is classified as a violent crime against another person, but is usually only treated as a misdemeanor as it typically defines attempts to commit a battery (and not the injury of serious physical harm). However, the charge of assault becomes far more serious if the incident in questions involves a law enforcement officer.

To prove assault, common law standards require four elements to be present

· The apprentice, present ability to carry out;

· An unlawful attempt;

· To commit a violent offense;

· Upon another.

While simple assault is treated as a misdemeanor, the charge of "aggravated assault" is a far more serious crime, and is classified as a felony.

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault can be labeled as such when an incident involves one or more of the following characteristics

· Intent to cause serious physical harm to another

· Infliction of injury purposely, knowingly, or recklessly in a way that displays an indifference to human life on the part of the offender

· Assault that involves the use of a deadly weapon

If any of these qualities are present in an assault, the charges are far more serious and can amount to significant jail time for the offender.


A simple battery, like simple assault, is considered as a misdemeanor at the common law level, and must involve the following three elements to be deemed as battery

· An unlawful application of force;

· To the person of another;

· Resulting in either bodily injury or an offensive touching.

Again, similar to assault, there is an elevated battery charge of "aggravated battery" that is considered as a felony. Aggravated battery involves more serious acts of violence against another person, usually involving permanent damage or disability to the victim.

A Concrete Example

To display the difference between these two charges, it may be helpful to look at an example to distinguish fully between assault and battery.

If a woman is chasing a man around a house, swinging a golf club at him wildly, this act alone would be classified as assault. If, however, she was successful in striking him with the club, the charge would be battery.

If you would like more information on assault and / or battery, contact the Minneapolis assault and battery advocates of Terry & Slane, PLLC today.


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