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Assault vs. Battery: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 29, 2023
Assault is the threat of harm, while battery involves physical contact or harm.

Key Differences

Assault and battery are terms commonly used in legal contexts to describe two distinct but often related offenses. Assault typically refers to the threat or attempt to inflict harm upon another, where there's an imminent fear of bodily harm. Battery, on the other hand, involves actual physical contact or offensive touching, irrespective of the harm it causes. While assault instills a fear of harm, battery manifests that harm through contact.
In many legal scenarios, it's possible for an individual to be charged with assault even if no physical contact occurred. For example, if a person swings a fist at someone but misses, that action could still qualify as an assault because it put the other person in immediate fear of a harmful or offensive contact. Battery, in contrast, would require the fist to make contact with the other person, regardless of the severity of the resulting injury.
The nuances between assault and battery can sometimes lead to misunderstandings. A person might believe that simply threatening another individual without physical contact is less severe or consequential. However, the law recognizes the psychological impact and potential danger of threats, hence the classification of assault. Conversely, battery underscores the sanctity of personal space and physical integrity, asserting that any unauthorized physical contact is unacceptable.
Assault can be seen as a precursor to battery in many situations. For instance, raising a hand in a threatening manner (assault) may be immediately followed by a slap (battery). Though interconnected, each holds its own weight in the eyes of the law. One emphasizes the terror and anxiety of potential harm, while the other confronts the violation and aftermath of actual harm.
In many jurisdictions, the distinction between assault and battery is crucial for legal proceedings. An individual can face different penalties and consequences based on whether they're charged with assault, battery, or both. While both offenses concern personal safety and boundaries, assault focuses on the psychological apprehension of harm, while battery confronts the tangible outcome of that harm through unauthorized physical contact.

Comparison Chart


Threat of harm
Actual physical contact or harm

Physical Contact

Not required


To create fear or apprehension
To cause harm or offensive contact


Proof of threat or apprehension
Proof of physical harm or contact


Can exist without physical harm
Requires physical harm or contact

Assault and Battery Definitions


An act causing fear of imminent harm.
His threats constituted an assault.


Causing physical injury to another.
The altercation resulted in battery charges due to injuries.


A spoken threat causing apprehension.
The verbal threat was classified as assault.


Inflicting physical harm on someone.
Hitting someone with an object is battery.


A threat creating fear of harm.
The aggressive gesture was considered an assault.


Any unwelcome physical touch.
Unwanted touching can be charged as battery.


A gesture implying harm.
Pointing a fake gun was deemed an assault.


Contact deemed offensive or harmful.
Spitting on someone is also classified as battery.


An act causing fear of immediate harm.
His actions were an assault as they created fear of immediate harm.


Unwanted physical contact.
Punching someone is considered battery.


Can assault occur without physical contact?

Yes, assault can occur without any physical touch.

Does battery require physical harm?

Yes, battery involves physical contact or harm.

Is verbal abuse considered assault?

It can be, if it induces fear or apprehension of harm.

What is assault?

A threat or act causing fear of harm.

What is battery?

Physical contact or harm inflicted on someone.

Are threats with weapons assault?

Yes, threats with weapons can constitute assault.

Is pushing someone considered battery?

Yes, pushing someone is typically considered battery.

Does battery always involve fighting?

No, any unwanted physical contact or harm, even without a fight, can be battery.

Can spitting on someone be battery?

Yes, spitting on someone can be considered battery.

Is grabbing someone's arm battery?

Yes, grabbing someone without consent can be battery.

Can battery occur without visible injuries?

Yes, any unwanted physical contact can be battery, even without visible injuries.

Can assault lead to battery charges?

If physical harm follows, assault can lead to battery charges.

Are there different degrees of battery?

Yes, legal systems often have varying degrees of battery based on harm severity.

Can assault occur over the phone?

Yes, threats made over the phone can be considered assault.

Are all forms of physical contact considered battery?

Unwanted or harmful physical contact is typically considered battery.

Can assault charges be pressed without physical evidence?

Yes, assault charges can be based on threats or fear induced.

Can mere words constitute assault?

Yes, if they create a genuine fear of imminent harm.

Can threatening gestures be considered assault?

Yes, threatening gestures can be classified as assault.

Is self-defense a valid defense for battery?

In some cases, self-defense can be a defense for battery charges.

Does assault require intention to harm?

It requires intention to cause fear or apprehension, not necessarily harm.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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