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Assault and Battery

By Irina Dmitriyev, Michael Bixon

Many of us hear the term "Assault and Battery" thrown around, but what does it really mean? Well, for starters, "assault" refers to the threat of violence, while "battery" refers to the act of physical violence. However, both are considered to be violent crimes in most jurisdictions. For example, threatening someone by throwing a book in their direction and missing is assault. If the book strikes the individual on the receiving end, the crime becomes battery. Still, the two often go hand-in-hand.

Assault, as implied, is the intentional act by one individual to cause harm to another. In order for a crime to labeled as assault, an explicit action must be present, meaning that the verbal threat of violence is not enough. As previously stated, "intent" is a very important element of assault. The intent can be specific or general. Specific intent refers to whether the attacker acts in a way that causes the victim to feel threatened. General intent refers to whether the attacker intends to act in a way that causes the victim to feel threatened. One more element of assault is that the victim must have felt a reasonable fear of harm and was aware of any potential danger.

Aggravated assault is something we hear as well. This is a heftier form of assault and it usually involves the use of a deadly weapon, such as a gun. Aggravated assault can also be charged when an individual uses a vehicle as their choice of weaponry. This is also sometimes referred to as vehicular assault, or aggravated assault with a motor vehicle.

When making a case for battery, the physical act of violence, several elements need to be in place. One of these elements is the actual act committed by the defendant. The second element is that the intent was to cause harm to the victim. The third element is that physical harm or contact was made with the victim by the defendant. The presence of the actual contact is what separates assault and battery.

There are more than a few defenses to assault and battery. These can include the defense of property, consent, and the prevention of crime. The defense of property is a defense in which the defendant argues that they need not be held liable for their actions because they were defending their property. Consent is a defense in which the defendant argues that the victim had given consent to the defendant's actions, preventing the defendant for being liable for any damage incurred. Prevention of a crime is a defense in which an individual may have used self-defense (but not necessarily) to prevent another individual from committing a crime.