What is the difference between assault and battery?

People who enjoy crime dramas have likely heard the phrase, “You are being arrested for assault and battery” at least once before. Television cops and lawyers mention these crimes in the same breath so often that many people believe that they are the exact same thing.

In reality, this depends on the state: in some states they are the same and in others they are not. In the state of Texas, assault and battery are two separate crimes. FindLaw, defines “assault” most generally an attempt at battery.

What is assault?

The easiest way to think about assault is that it is an individual’s attempt to hurt somebody else. However, assault does not require contact between the perpetrator and the victim. Essentially, the perpetrator must be acting in such a matter as to cause a reasonable person fear for his or her safety.

An example of assault is a perpetrator threatening to hit the victim with a baseball bat. In order for this to be assault, the perpetrator does not need to make contact with the victim. The victim must only be afraid that the perpetrator might reasonably do so.

What is battery?

Unlike assault, there must be contact between a perpetrator and a victim for a charge of battery. However, some forms of battery are not related to violent touching. For example, if one person spits on another person that can be an act of battery.

Additionally, not all accidental touching is battery. For example, if one person bumps into another person accidentally that is not battery even if the ‘victim’ finds the contact offensive.