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Assault vs Battery: The Difference Between Assault and Battery

Two terms we frequently see used incorrectly by our clients are assault and battery. In most instances, clients are surprised to find out they were charged with battery when they assumed they were going to be charged with assault or vice versa. A lot of times, we hear people say, “I was picked up for an assault and battery,” and they actually combine the two legal terms. In reality, assault and battery are two separate (albeit similar) crimes in California with different definitions and penalties.

Keep reading to learn the difference between assault and battery. If you need legal representation, contact an Oakland assault lawyer from The Nieves Law Firm.

Defining Assault and Battery in California

In California, assault is charged under Penal Code 240. PC § 240 defines assault as “an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.”

On the other hand, the battery is charged under Penal Code 242. PC § 242 defines battery as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.”

While the definitions are very similar, they do have distinct differences.

What Is Aggravated Assault?

Aggravated assault is a serious criminal offense that involves the intentional and reckless infliction of severe physical harm to another person. It goes beyond simple assault, typically incorporating elements such as the use of a deadly weapon, the intent to commit a serious crime, or causing injury with utter disregard for human life.

In many jurisdictions, aggravated assault is considered a felony, carrying harsher penalties than standard assault charges. The severity of the crime demands a skilled criminal defense attorney who can build a robust legal strategy to protect the accused. At The Nieves Law Firm, our experienced lawyers are well-versed in handling aggravated assault cases, providing unwavering support and advocacy to secure the best possible outcome for our clients.

What Is Aggravated Battery?

Aggravated battery is a grave criminal offense that involves causing intentional and serious bodily injury to another person, often accompanied by additional aggravating factors. Unlike a simple battery, this crime typically includes the use of a deadly weapon, the intent to commit a serious crime, or the victim’s vulnerability, such as a law enforcement officer or a disabled individual.

Due to its serious nature, aggravated battery is treated as a felony in most jurisdictions, leading to severe legal consequences. If you or someone you know is facing aggravated battery charges, The Nieves Law Firm is prepared to offer comprehensive legal representation, leveraging our experience to strengthen your defense and protect your rights during this challenging time.

Assault vs. Battery: How Are They Different?

When an assault occurs, there is no requirement for contact to be made with the other person. So, let’s say I raise my fist at you. I don’t make contact with you, but I come at you in a threatening way. This leads you to believe that I was capable of harming you. According to California law, I’ve just assaulted you.

Now, if I am in the same situation as described above, but I take my fist and swing it at you and punch you in the face, then I’ve actually committed a battery. Battery requires the use of force or violence on another person, whereas assault does not.

The main difference is that assault is the intimidation portion or the act that makes another person believe they are going to cause you great bodily harm. The battery is the actual contact that occurred without consent. So, if I punch you in the face, I’ve committed a battery.

The Penalties for Assault and Battery

It is important to understand the difference between assault and battery because they carry different penalties. Assault and battery are both “wobblers,” meaning they can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.

Simple assault is punishable by a fine of less than $1,000 and/or up to 6 months in jail. However, the penalties may increase based on a number of different aggravating factors, including who was assaulted and whether a weapon was used in the commission of the assault.

Battery is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to 6 months in jail. Similar to assault, the penalties for battery may increase based on many different aggravating factors, like those listed above, including the severity of the injuries sustained from the battery and the victim of the battery.

Next Steps – Contacting a Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been charged with assault or battery in California, it is essential that you speak with an Oakland assault and battery attorney to receive legal advice and to ensure your rights are protected. At The Nieves Law Firm, we have ample experience in assault and battery cases, and we would be happy to see how we can help you in the situation you’re facing. Contact our team today to schedule a complimentary consultation and take the next steps to protect your future.

Author Bio

Jo-Anna Nieves is the Founder and Managing Attorney of The Nieves Law Firm, an Oakland criminal defense law firm she created in 2012. With more than 11 years of experience in criminal defense, she has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including DUIs, domestic violence, expungement, federal crimes, juvenile law, motions to vacate, sex crimes, violent crimes, and other criminal charges.

Jo-Anna received her Juris Doctor from the Florida State University College of Law and is a member of the State Bar of California. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named a Super Lawyer Rising Star the past 8 years, the #12 Fastest Growing Law Firm in the U.S. by Law Firm 500 in 2019, and one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. by Inc 5000 in 2023.

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