If you have been accused of assault, assault and battery, or aggravated assault, you may be wondering what the differences are. While they all involve one person doing intentional harm to another person, crimes involving physical attacks can be assaults or batteries or both. Depending on the seriousness of the attack, charges can be elevated to the most serious one of aggravated assault.
Assault is defined as the intentional act of causing another person to be afraid they are going to experience physical harm. While this is a broad definition, since actual physical harm doesn’t have to be involved, assault is the fact that a person fears imminent harm from another person. The broadness of this definition permits the police to intervene to prevent any actual harm to the person.
Assault and battery were originally considered to be separate crimes. While assault is the fear of impending physical harm, battery is defined as the actual physical harm done to a victim. While “assault” can be considered the beginning, “battery” can be consider the ending. Most statutes now do not make a distinction between these two offenses.
Depending on the seriousness of the potential harm that may occur to a victim, many states make a distinction between “simple” and “aggravated assault.” Aggravated assault is a felony which may involve an assault with a weapon, or the intention to commit a serious crime. It can also be classified as aggravated assault if there is any legally regarded “special protection” relationship involved. If the assault is classified as simple assault its usually charged as a misdemeanor. In some states the seriousness of the assault may be classified as “first,” “second,” or “third” degree assaults, in which case a “first” degree assault is the most serious one.