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What is the difference between assault and battery?

On Behalf of | Dec 15, 2022 | Criminal Defense

The terms assault and battery are often used interchangeably, or as if these actions are one and the same. However, that is not the case. When a resident of Pennsylvania is charged with assault and battery, he or she is charged with two different crimes. Additionally, there are factors that can contribute to the severity of the crimes.


An assault is a threat to do bodily or other harm. Even if the threat does not lead to a physical injury, the language used to convey violence to someone could meet the legal standard of an assault. If the intended target believes that he or she is going to be injured as a result of someone’s statement or actions, like pointing a gun, then it is an assault.

Actions that lie outside of the bounds of an assault are ones that result from unintended physical contact. On the other hand, there are degrees of assault with some being more serious than others. If someone threatens harm to a child, a senior citizen or uses a deadly weapon, the charge could be elevated to that of an aggravated assault.


A person commits battery when he physically injures and/or offends someone. The injurious actions are intentional and done without the expressed consent of the wounded party. For example, battery occurs when a person improperly touches someone without her consent. The definition of battery is broad enough to include actions that are offensive but not physical. Spitting on someone would fall into this category. Like assault, there are different levels of battery depending upon the severity of the actions.

A person who retorts may also be charged with battery; however, mitigating circumstances are applicable. If the alleged victim can prove self-defense for himself or for someone else, those charges could be dropped.