Assault vs. Battery: Is There a Difference?

Some crimes are so similar, it’s difficult to tell them apart. This is often the case with assault and battery.

People often use the two crimes together as one term, saying something like, “accused of assault and battery.” Many states charge the two crimes almost identically as well.

Technically, there is a legal difference between assault and battery. It all depends on whether you are directly involved in violence against someone else.

Defining Assault

Generally, assault involves threats of violence, not direct contact.

Examples include:

  • Getting in someone’s face and yelling at them
  • Balling up your fist at someone
  • Shouting violent threats at someone

Assault can also include unwanted invasions of personal space.

Examples include:

  • Spitting on someone
  • Pushing or chest-bumping someone
  • “Glitter bombing” someone. (Within the last several years, many non-violent activists have used this method of attacking someone without causing harm. Some were surprised to find themselves arrested for assault.)

Defining Battery

Battery is a direct act of physical violence.

Examples include:

  • Kicking someone
  • Punching someone
  • Using an object such as a stick or a club against someone

Tennessee’s Assault and Battery Penalties

The state does separate the two crimes at the lowest levels. Simple assault, for instance, is a crime involving threats with no direct harm done. As assault crimes become more severe, they can be charged alongside battery offenses.

Assault in the 3rd Degree (Simple Assault):

Class A Misdemeanor; up to 1 year in jail; fines up to $2,500

Assault or Battery in the 2nd Degree (causing moderate injury or making contact with intimate body parts):

Class A Misdemeanor; up to 1 year in jail; fines up to $2,500

Assault or Battery in the 1st Degree (causing serious injury or making contact with intimate body parts):

Class E Felony; up to 10 years in jail

Aggravated Assault or Battery

Certain aspects of these crimes can elevate or “aggravate” them. This means that they are treated more seriously and punished more harshly.

Aggravating factors include:

  • Causing extreme injury to the victim, up to and including death
  • Making extremely offensive physical contact with someone (grabbing or groping private parts, etc.)
  • Making the victim reasonably fear for their life, even if you don’t directly harm them (aggravated assault)

Aggravated Battery or Assault:

Class C felony; up to 20 years in jail

Possible Defenses You Can Use

Assault and battery charges are not as cut-and-dry as the police want you to believe. Often, they see only the aftereffects of the alleged crime, and they don’t know the circumstances leading up to the event.

Here are some credible defenses you can use against assault and battery allegations:

  • Self-Defense
  • Mutual Combat (both parties consenting to a fight)
  • Poor Mental State (either mental illness or inebriation)
  • Mitigating Circumstances (extreme situations that lead an otherwise non-violent person to lash out)

Our firm is here to help those who’ve been accused of assault and/or battery. Set up a free consultation with Patton & Pittman Attorneys today by calling (931) 361-4477 or contacting us online.

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