An Overview on Assault and Battery Cases

What are assault and battery? These are words that are commonly used together and often misunderstood. In this post, we will discuss the subject thoroughly so you will get a good understanding of assault and battery.

So keep reading…

Definition of Assault

The term “assault” differs in definition from state-to-state, but it is frequently defined as an attempt to harm somebody else and can take the form of threats or threatening actions against others.

A common definition is a deliberate attempt, using force or violence, to harm or injure another person. Occasionally another direct way that assault is termed is “attempted battery.” Certainly, in general, the main difference between assault and battery is that contact is not necessary for assault to occur, whereas an illegal or offensive contact must take place for the battery.

Act Requirement

Even if contact is not necessary for assault to happen, an assault conviction still involves a criminal “act.” The forms of acts that belong to the assault category can vary widely, but normally an assault entails a direct or overt act that would place the reasonable individual in fear for his or her safety.

And spoken words alone won’t be sufficient of an act to make up an assault unless the defendant furthers them with actions that place the plaintiff in reasonable fear of future harm.

assault and battery

medical practitioner assaulting a senior citizen

Intent Requirement

To commit an assault, a person only needs “general intent.” Meaning, although somebody cannot unintentionally assault another individual, it is sufficient to demonstrate that a defendant intended the actions which constitute an assault.

Thus, if a person acts in a manner that’s deemed as dangerous to other individuals that can be sufficient to support the assault charges, even though they did not intend a specific harm to a specific person. Additionally, intent to frighten or scare another individual can be sufficient to establish the assault charges too.

Assault and battery are closely related legal terms but have different kinds of claims in civil cases. Let us take a look at Assault and Battery Overview by Find Law. The article provides a more comprehensive look at both offenses as well as their elements, which aids to explain how both offenses are closely tied together. Here it is:

“Assault: Definition

“The definitions for assault vary from state-to-state, but assault is often defined as an attempt to injure to someone else, and in some circumstances can include threats or threatening behavior against others. One common definition would be an intentional attempt, using violence or force, to injure or harm another person. Another straightforward way that assault is sometimes defined is as an attempted battery. Indeed, generally the main distinction between an assault and a battery is that no contact is necessary for an assault, whereas an offensive or illegal contact must occur for a battery.

“Battery: Definition

“Although the statutes defining battery will vary by jurisdiction, a typical definition for battery is the intentional offensive or harmful touching of another person without their consent. Under this general definition, a battery offense requires all of the following:

  • intentional touching;
  • the touching must be harmful or offensive;
  • no consent from the victim.”

Definition of Battery

Though the statutes that define battery will differ by jurisdiction, a classic battery definition is the intentional harmful or offensive touching of another individual without their consent. And under this definition, a battery offense involves the following:

  • deliberate touching;
  • the touching should be offensive or harmful;
  • nonconsensual from the victim.

Intent Requirement

It may be surprising that a battery usually doesn’t involve any intent to injure the victim (though such intent frequently exists in battery lawsuits). Instead, an individual only needs intent to cause contact or contact with a person.

In addition to that, if somebody acts in a negligent or criminally reckless manner that causes such contact, it could make up an assault. Therefore, accidentally bumping into somebody, offensive as the injured party might think it to be, wouldn’t make up a battery.

assault victim

Act Requirement

The criminal act necessary for battery comes down to a harmful or offensive contact. This act can range from the apparent battery where a bodily attack (kick or punch) is involved, to even slight contact in a few cases. In general, a victim doesn’t have to be harmed or injured for a battery to have taken place, providing an offensive contact took place.

In a common case, spitting on a person does not physically harm them, but it, however, can make up offensive contact enough for a battery. Whether a specific contact is deemed as offensive is typically assessed from the viewpoint of the “ordinary individual.”

Personal Injury Claims for Assault and Battery by All Law offers us more information regarding the difference between Offensive and Harmful Contact, which is key consideration in a claim. Here’s an excerpt:

“The contact is “harmful” if it in any way alters the physical condition or structure of the plaintiff’s body, even if it does not cause pain. For example, if the defendant grabs the plaintiff’s arm or shoves him, but does not actually cause the plaintiff any pain, the plaintiff may still sue for battery. However, a “harmful” contact could also be something more serious, for example putting a dangerous substance in food that the plaintiff subsequently eats.

“An “offensive” contact is one that is offensive to a reasonable sense of personal dignity. “Dignity” in this legal sense is a broad phrase encompassing other emotions such as insult, fright, disgust, embarrassment or humiliation. Whether a plaintiff was reacting reasonably when he or she experienced any of these emotions as a result of the defendant’s contact is typically a question for the judge or jury.”

Assault and Battery as Personal Injury Claims by Nolo even further offers us more info about defenses in assault and battery cases. Here are examples from the article:

“Consent. A defendant might say that the victim agreed to the possibility of being hurt. This defense arises most often in intentional tort lawsuits in cases involving contact sports, paintball-style games, and similar activities. A plaintiff who files a lawsuit in these cases may have a hard time winning if he or she consented to certain physical contact — getting hit in a game of football, for example — even if the contact ended up causing harm.

“Privilege. A police officer who used force while arresting someone might try to assert the defense of privilege. For example, if a police officer injured someone while making an arrest, a lawsuit for assault and battery probably won’t be successful as long as the officer used a reasonable and appropriate amount of physical force while making the arrest.”

Learn more about assault and battery as well as their elements in