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Assault, Aggravated Assault, and Battery – What Is the Difference?

You may often hear the terms “assault”, “battery” and “aggravated assault” when referring to someone inflicting harm on a different individual. Crimes that involve someone getting attacked physically are classified as either assault or battery, while in some cases, they can be classified as both. However, many people use the terms interchangeably, not knowing what makes them different.

Let’s take a look at these 3 types of offenses so you can differentiate between them.


Assault refers to a situation when someone is trying to harm another person intentionally. By definition, assault is an act that is intentional and makes another individual either fear imminent physical harm or attack. It does not need to involve physical harm to the other individual, though.

For the assault charge to be made, one must have the intent behind their action. One can even just slightly touch the other person in an offensive and rude way for it to count as assault.

In some states, there are different degrees of assault. There is first, second and third-degree assault.

One example of assault is when two people who formerly had a conflict walk past each other on the street, with one carrying a knife. Simply walking past each other is not assault. However, all of a sudden, the knife holder swings their knife in the other person’s direction, attempting to cut their skin or stab them. The other person is able to sprint away and avoid an injury. However, the knife holder has committed an assault in this case.

An assault is a misdemeanor offense. Someone who is charged with assault will either get a fine or will have to be imprisoned in jail for up to six months.

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is a more severe form of assault where a deadly weapon is involved. A simple charge of assault becomes aggravated assault as soon as the culprit has no concern for another individual’s life.

So, aggravated assault is something that would lead to severe bodily crime or the intent to commit a crime that is very serious – rape, for instance.

Someone who drives under the influence of alcohol or drugs may be charged with aggravated assault due to the potential of hurting other people severely. This is because the driver could have inflicted severe bodily damage by operating a motor vehicle.


Battery refers to a situation where a person ends up harming another person. So, if an individual threatens someone else, but then the situation escalates and they actually harm the other person, it is considered battery.

What Does “Battery and Assault” Mean?

Assault and battery are generally separate. Battery is the type of offense where the perpetrator physically harms another individual. So, it is considered an “assault” that was completed.

Battery has to include allegations of an actual altercation. If a person was shoved by someone else but the perpetrator missed, there cannot be battery criminal charges. An assault charge might apply, though.

Can You Legally Defend Yourself If You Are Charged with Battery of Assault?

If you are charged with assault or battery, you can challenge this charge with a legal defense. One can hire criminal defense attorneys to help prove that they did not commit any crime.

With a good defense, a person will be able to dismiss or reduce their criminal charge. This would be hard to do with self-representation, though, which is why an experienced lawyer will be necessary.

Four strategies could be used to defend against assault charges. So, the person could claim that they were falsely accused, that they did not commit the crime willfully, that they acted in self-defense, and that they did not try to use force.

Similar to the case above, there are four different defenses that could be effective when charged with battery. You could claim that you did not act willfully, that you did not touch the other individual, that you were charged or stopped with no cause, or that you tried to defend yourself.

The Bottom Line

Assault and battery are used in similar contexts by many people, with a lot of individuals thinking that they mean the same thing. In reality, assault, aggravated assault, and battery are different terms.

While assault involves a threat of harm or a physical act that leads to superficial injuries, battery involves the physical altercation that results in injuries. If you are either a perpetrator or victim in such a case, you should know the difference.

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