The Difference Between Assault and Battery

difference between assault and battery

While many people may use the legal terms assault and battery interchangeably, they are not the same thing. And, while most states separate assault and battery laws into two separate statutes, Pennsylvania does not. Assault occurs when the victim is placed in imminent fear of immediate bodily injury. A simple verbal threat is not enough to support an assault charge. As for battery, under Pennsylvania law, there is not a designated criminal statute for battery. Criminal battery is included as a part of the assault statute; someone commits a battery when they cause actual physical harm to a victim of assault. The main difference between assault and battery is that an assault is the threat of harm while a battery is actually harming someone.

Since Pennsylvania does not have separate statutes for assault and battery, below we will review the differences between simple assault and aggravated assault.

Simple Assault

A simple assault can result in an injury, but that is not required. Simple assault and battery will generally be charged as a Class 2 misdemeanor and carry up to two years in prison upon conviction. A mutual fight will typically be charged as a Class 3 misdemeanor which carries up to one year in prison. An assault committed against a child under age 12 is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor and can result in up to five years in prison.

The difference between assault and battery with regard to a “simple offense” is that a simple assault involves the threat of violence with no physical harm being inflicted, while simple battery involves physically touching another person in an offensive way.

Under 18 Pa.C.S.2701, a person can be charged with simple assault when he or she:

  • attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another
  • negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon
  • attempts by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury or
  • conceals or attempts to conceal a hypodermic needle on his person and intentionally or knowingly penetrates a law enforcement officer or an officer or an employee of a correctional institution, county jail or prison, detention facility or mental hospital during an arrest or any search of the person

Simple assault is a second-degree misdemeanor unless it is committed:

(1)  in a fight entered into by mutual consent, in which case it is a third-degree or

(2)  against a child under 12 years of age by a person 18 years of age or older, in which case it is a first-degree misdemeanor

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is considered a violent crime. The difference between simple assault and aggravated assault is that in an aggravated assault, serious bodily injury occurs. Aggravated assault is mostly charged as a Class 2 felony and carries up to 10 years in prison. If an individual is found to have acted extremely indifferent to human life, they could be charged with a Class 1 felony and face up to 20 years in prison.

Here, the distinction between “bodily injury” and “serious bodily injury” is very important. A bodily injury is an impairment of the physical condition that can cause substantial pain. A serious bodily injury is a bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or which causes permanent disfigurement or impairment of bodily function.

Pennsylvania’s aggravated assault statute is 18 Pa.C.S.2702 and a person can be charged with this crime if he or she:

  • attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another, or causes such injury intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life (first-degree felony)
  • attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes serious bodily injury to any of the officers, agents, and/or employees of designated government entities (such as the police or firefighter) or an employee of an agency, company, or other entity engaged in public transportation, while in the performance of their duties (first-degree felony)
  • attempts to cause or intentionally or knowingly cause bodily injury to any of the officers, agents, and/or employees of designated government entities in the performance of their duties (second-degree felony)
  • attempts to cause or intentionally or knowingly cause bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon (second-degree felony)
  • attempts to cause or intentionally or knowingly cause bodily injury to a teaching staff member, school board member, or other employees, including a student employee, of any elementary or secondary publicly-funded educational institution, any elementary or secondary private school licensed by the Department of Education, or any elementary or secondary parochial school while acting in the scope of their employment or because of their employment relationship to the school (second-degree felony)
  • attempts by physical menace to put any of the officers, agents, employees, and/or other persons of designated government entities while they are performing their duties, in fear of imminent serious bodily injury (second-degree felony)
  • uses tear or noxious gas or uses an electric or electronic incapacitation device against any officer, employee, and/or other person working for a designated government entity while they are acting in the scope of their employment (second-degree felony)
  • attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to a child less than six years of age, by a person 18 years of age or older or (second-degree felony)
  • attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes serious bodily injury to a child less than 13 years of age, by a person 18 years of age or older (first-degree felony)

Pennsylvania Assault and Battery Criminal Defense Lawyers

If you’re facing charges in Pittsburgh for assault and battery, you need an experienced criminal defense assault attorney to help you navigate the criminal justice system. SMT Legal has worked hard for the people of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for years. We can explain your charges, review the facts of your case, present the potential outcomes, and represent you at every step of the proceedings. Your freedom matters to us. Contact SMT Legal today for more information on how we can help.

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