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Assault vs Battery

Our assault and battery attorneys frequently address the question of what distinguishes assault from battery. While these terms are often linked in criminal law, they represent two distinct forms of conduct. Assault is the act of intentionally creating a sense of imminent harmful or offensive contact in another person. It involves the threat or fear of violence but does not require physical contact. Essentially, assault is about creating a threatening situation where harm seems likely.

On the other hand, battery is characterized by actual physical contact. It occurs when someone intentionally inflicts harmful or offensive contact upon another person. Understanding this distinction is crucial for victims, as it affects how they approach legal action. While both assault and battery involve bodily harm, they are separate crimes with different legal definitions and implications. Battery deals with the physical act of harm, whereas assault concerns the threat or apprehension of harm.

What is the difference between assault and battery?


  • Assault occurs when a person intentionally places another in imminent apprehension of harmful or offensive contact.
  • Imminent: this means that a person must place someone in immediate fear.
  • Harmful contact: this is meant to cause some type of injury to the victim
  • Offensive contact: this refers to contact that seems to exceed someone’s dignity
  • In order for assault to occur, the victim must be aware of the assault and be placed in immediate fear. It is important to note that assault does not actually require any type of physical touching.
  • Assault is considered to be an attempted battery.
  • One could be charged with assault even if they did not cause any type of physical touching.

Aggravated assault

Aggravated assault, still refers to an act where there is an immediate fear of harmful or offensive contact, but it typically involves additional factors that elevate its severity compared to a regular assault. These factors can include the use of a deadly weapon or the assault being committed against a law enforcement official. The legal definitions and specific criteria for aggravated assault can vary by jurisdiction, but generally, the presence of these aggravating factors leads to more severe punishments compared to simple assault. This reflects society’s view on the heightened seriousness of these crimes, as they pose a greater threat to personal safety and public order.

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

What are the different degrees of assault?

  1. First-degree assault, often synonymous with aggravated assault in various jurisdictions is recognized for carrying the most severe penalties among assault classifications. This categorization typically hinges on the presence of extreme disregard for human life and the infliction of serious bodily harm. The element of severe indifference is critical in differentiating first-degree assault from other types.
  2. Second-degree assault, while still serious, differs from first-degree in terms of the intent behind the bodily harm or the degree of harm inflicted. Most cases of second-degree assault involve the use of a dangerous or deadly weapon. However, the intent to cause harm may be less direct, or the resultant injuries less severe than in first-degree assaults. Consequently, the punishments for second-degree assaults are generally less severe than those for first-degree assaults.
  3. Third-degree assault is categorized with the least severe penalties in the assault spectrum. This degree often encompasses scenarios where an individual attempts but fails to cause harm to another, or causes harm that does not manifest as physical injuries. This might include psychological or emotional harm. The lighter punishment reflects the lesser degree of harm or the unsuccessful attempt to inflict physical injury.

Examples Of Assault

  • A man walks up to a diner and points a gun at the diner, then walks away.
  • A man threatening another car parked to the side of him that is stopped at a red light


Battery occurs when a person intentionally causes harmful or offensive contact.

  • Harmful contact: the contact must bring about some type of injury
  • Offensive contact: the contact must be outside the bounds of human dignity
  • There needs to be actual touching in the crime of battery.

Under California Penal Code Section 242: battery is defined as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.”

Examples Of Battery

  • Several children throw their toys at their teacher’s eye
  • A robber pulls an expensive jacket off of someone walking on the street
  • A man pushes someone out of his way while walking on the street

Aggravated battery

Aggravated battery occurs when the perpetrator engages in battery with a deadly weapon, or engages in battery with a police official. Aggravated battery includes more serious fines and longer prison time.

How are battery and assault charged?

Both battery and assault can be charged as a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor is less severe than a felony, and will require some jail time, along with substantial fines.

  • Assault: assault is charged with imprisonment for up to six months and / or a maximum fine of $1,000
  • Battery: battery is charged with imprisonment for up to six months and / or substantial fines beyond $1,000.

California Assault Statistics

In 2024, California has experienced a notable increase in violent crimes, including assaults. This upsurge is part of a broader trend of rising crime rates in the state, with violent crimes overall increasing by 6.1% since 2021. Specifically, assaults are a significant component of this increase, contributing to the heightened concern over public safety and the efficacy of current crime prevention strategies in California

Involvement of Drugs and Alcohol

As of 2024, it continues to be observed that a significant number of individuals involved in assault and battery incidents in California and Nevada have a history of drug and alcohol use. The influence of these substances often impairs cognitive functions and decision-making abilities, which can lead to impulsive and aggressive behaviors, including acts of violence like assault and battery. This ongoing trend underscores the complex relationship between substance abuse and criminal activities, particularly in the context of violent crimes.

Assault vs. Battery Frequently Asked Questions

Is punching someone a battery or assault?

Battery requires actual physical touching. So, punching someone is a battery rather than an assault.

What is more serious: assault or battery?

Assault is placing someone in fear, whereas battery is physical touching. Therefore, battery is considered to be more serious than assault.

Can you have a battery without assault?

It is possible to have a battery without assault, and to have an assault without a battery. You could have an assault by simply placing someone in fear, and you can have battery by causing physical touching. The assault merges into the battery claim.

What defenses can I raise for a crime of assault or battery?

If you have been charged with assault and / or battery there are a variety of defenses you could potentially raise. Examples of defenses include:

  • You did not act voluntarily: examples include experiencing a heart attack or a stroke that caused you to make an involuntary action against another party
  • You acted in self-defense: this usually means that the victim started the altercation by initially causing a battery or assault
  • You are falsely accused

Assault And Battery Attorneys in California

Contact our assault and battery attorneys located in California and Nevada for a free no risk consultation if you or a loved one have been a victim of battery and / or assault. Battery and assault claims could be very complex, especially if the victim suffered a variety of injuries. During your initial free no risk consultation, our attorneys will determine who the at-fault parties are, along with what crimes have taken place.

Our top rated assault and battery attorneys are available 24/7 via phone and email, and also have an office located in several major cities in California and Nevada, including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Irvine, San Francisco, etc. Our attorneys dedicate ourselves to make sure that you are represented, and you seek maximum compensation for the injuries you have suffered from your battery and / or assault claim.

Our attorneys are on your side and available to assist you. We have decades of experience representing clients who have been injured in assault and battery cases. Contact us today.

***Disclaimer: This webpage has been crafted by Heidari Law Group solely for educational purposes. The content of this article aims to offer a broad comprehension of the law and does not constitute specific legal advice. By accessing this site and perusing its contents, no attorney-client relationship is established between you and any member of Heidari Law. Additionally, it’s important to note that the legal landscape is subject to continuous change, rendering some of the information provided herein potentially outdated or no longer applicable.

Sam Heidari

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Sam Heidari

Sam Ryan Heidari

Sam Heidari is the founding principal of Heidari Law Group, a law firm specializing in personal injury, wrongful death, and employment law with offices in California and Nevada. Sam Heidari has been practicing law for over 11 years and handles a wide range of cases including car accidents, wrongful death, employment discrimination, and product liability. The Heidari Law Group legal firm is known for its comprehensive approach, handling cases from initial consultation through to final judgment. Sam Heidari is dedicated to community involvement and advocacy for civil liberties.

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