Assault vs Battery: What's The Difference?

Assault vs Battery: What’s The Difference?

by Apr 1, 2021

Assault and battery are the two most common crimes people are charged with whenever there is a physical altercation between individuals. While the phrase “assault and battery” is commonly used to reference a single crime or category of crimes, they are actually two separate and distinct charges.

Practically speaking, there can be a lot of overlap in how the two crimes are interpreted and charged in any given case. But for the purposes of explanation, we’ll use a simple example scenario to illustrate the difference.

Imagine the following scenario:
Two people get into an argument in a parking lot, they yell back and forth at each other, and then one person picks up a rock and throws it at the other person.


Assault is commonly defined as “an act that puts the victim in reasonable apprehension of harmful or offensive contact.” The key here is that no actual physical harm needs to occur for the police to charge someone with assault.

Looking at our example scenario, if the person who throws the rock misses the other person and the rock lands harmlessly on the pavement, then that would be considered assault.

It does not matter if the person who threw the rock actually intended to hit the other person, all the matters is if the person the rock was thrown at was reasonably afraid the rock would hit them.

Assault is a misdemeanor violation and is punishable by up to six months in jail (as opposed to state prison) and a maximum fine of $1,000.

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Battery is defined as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence on someone else.” Battery requires that one person actually inflicts harmful or offensive contact on another person. There is no requirement that the victim suffers a personal injury or bodily harm, only that contact was made.

Going back to our example scenario, if the person who threw the rock actually hit the other person, even if no harm occurred (hard to imagine, but theoretically possible), that would qualify as battery.

If there is no severe bodily harm to the victim, the battery would likely be charged as a misdemeanor and the punishment is the same as misdemeanor assault.

Aggravated Assault & Battery

When the use of a deadly weapon (such as a knife or gun) is used in an assault, and/or if a victim sustains severe bodily harm or injury, then the crimes can be charged as aggravated assault and battery.

Aggravated assault and battery can possibly be charged as felonies. If felony charges are brought, the punishments for those crimes are much more severe, and can result in prison time and huge financial penalties.

Defending Against Assault & Battery Charges

If you’ve been accused of either assault or battery, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend you. At Quinnan Law, we’ve successfully defended a long list of clients from these types of charges, and we can help you with your case as well.

Please contact our office today for a free consultation.


At Quinnan Law, we offer every client a free phone consultation to discuss their unique situation and determine how we can help. To arrange a consultation, please fill out the adjacent form or call us at: (707) 540-2356.

We provide representation in California State and Federal Courts. We accept most major credit cards for your convenience.

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