What is the Difference Between Assault And Battery?
You may have heard of assault and battery and wondered what the difference is between the two charges. In some places, the law defines assault as the threat of bodily harm, whereas battery is the act of actually harming a person. In many places, however, the law only uses the term assault to cover both situations, and battery is no longer used.
At Hansen Law Offices, PLLC, I am a former prosecuting attorney and I handle criminal cases in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I understand the differences between the assault laws in all three states. They each have varying levels of penalties, from fines to prison time.
Assault Laws in Maine
In the state of Maine, the law defines assault as causing “bodily injury or offensive physical contact to another person” in an intentional, knowing or reckless way, but battery is no longer a recognized offense. Maine bases the level of your charge on the severity of the assault. For example, aggravated assault requires bodily injury or use of a weapon or strangulation. If the alleged victim is a family or household member, you can be charged with domestic violence assault which can have serious, collateral ramifications.
Levels of Assault In New Hampshire
In New Hampshire, most misdemeanor assault charges are called “simple assault.” A simple assault does not require proof of injury to the other person. The touching only needs to be unwanted. For a felony-level assault, the alleged victim must have sustained serious bodily injury or strangulation. Domestic assaults require proof that the alleged victim was an intimate partner or family or household member.
Massachusetts Law Distinguishes Between Assault and Battery
Massachusetts law differs from the other two states because it still distinguishes between assault and battery. Assault charges in Massachusetts apply to situations where there is only the threat of injury or harm. Assault and battery requires actual touching which may or may not cause injury.