We hear the term “assault and battery” so often that the two words almost become blurred into a single thought. Many people even consider “assault and battery” to be a single offense with which a suspect can be charged. The reality, however, is that “assault” and “battery” are two different offenses, each one carrying separate penalties under Georgia law.
If you have been charged with assault, battery, or both, you are facing the possibility of steep fines, a prison sentence, and possibly the long-reaching consequences of a felony conviction. You must understand the charges that have been levied against you and secure legal counsel to help you prepare and mount your defense against your criminal charges.
Assault vs. Battery: The Definitions
Assault is the criminal act of acting in a way that makes another person reasonably afraid that they will be violently harmed in some way or attempting to injure another person physically. A few phrases here need to be unpacked to get a complete understanding of what does or does not constitute assault.
For someone to be “reasonably afraid” or “reasonably frightened,” a threat or threatening gesture must be made in a way that most people would see as being a genuine, executable threat:
- Threats that are made in jest are not considered genuine.
- Overblown threats made “in the heat of the moment” – such as shouting “I’m going to kill you!” when someone cuts another person off in traffic – are usually not considered genuine.
- If the threatener poses no actual threat to the threatened person, the threat is probably not executable.
For assault to occur, there must be a threat of both violence and harm. For instance, threatening to ruin someone financially is not assault since the threat doesn’t involve the use of violence or any physical damage to the person being threatened. Similarly, threatening to smash up someone’s parked and vacant vehicle is not assault since the violence is directed toward an object, not the person. (It would, however, demonstrate malice and intent for the ensuing vandalism charge.)
Some examples of actions that would be considered assault include:
- Making a genuine verbal threat against another person.
- Raising a fist in a threatening manner.
- Pointing a gun or brandishing a knife towards another person.
- Steering a vehicle towards a pedestrian.
Battery is the criminal act of intentionally causing bodily harm to another person. Harm caused as the result of an accident is not battery, nor is harm caused as the result of negligence (which would instead be criminal negligence).
To put it more simply, if you intentionally hurt someone else physically, you have committed battery. The severity of the injury is not material in determining whether or not battery has occurred; even a slap across the face that causes no lasting damage would be considered battery. The injury’s severity does determine whether the crime was “simple battery” or “aggravated battery,” which we will discuss below.
Can You Commit Battery Without Committing Assault?
The short answer is “yes.” If an offender harms someone without first threatening them, that could be considered battery without assault. For instance, sneaking up behind someone and stabbing them before they were aware of the assailant’s presence would be battery (physically harming someone) without assault (threatening to harm someone) because the person never felt threatened before the actual attack was underway.
Assault vs. Battery: Aggravated Charges
If an assault or battery is particularly violent or dangerous or is targeted against certain people who are specially protected under the law, the charge can be considered aggravated. The penalties associated with an aggravated assault or battery conviction are far more severe.
Assault charges are considered aggravated when the threatened act was especially violent, when the manner of the assault itself was particularly dangerous, or when the assault was directed at a protected member of the population:
- Using a firearm, knife, or any other weapon or object to threaten a person
- Using your hands or any other implement to try to strangle someone
- Assaulting a person with the intent to murder, rob, or rape them
- Firing a firearm from a motor vehicle in the direction of someone
- Assaulting a child, senior citizen, or pregnant woman
Battery charges become aggravated when the injuries sustained by the victim are particularly dangerous or life-changing:
- Broken bones
- Internal injuries
- Traumatic brain injury
- Loss of a limb or other extremity
- Gunshot or stab wound
Assault vs. Battery: Penalties
Simple assault and simple battery are both misdemeanors under Georgia law and can carry a fine of up to $1,000 and a sentence of up to 12 months in jail. Individuals convicted of simple assault and/or battery may also face a year of probation and be required to pay restitution to their victim.
Aggravated assault and aggravated battery are both felonies. The penalties can vary widely based on what led to the charge being aggravated. Someone convicted of an aggravated assault and/or battery charge will face:
- One to 20 years in prison for most offenses; up to 50 years for the most egregious crimes
- Fines up to $100,000
- Restitution payments to the victim
- Loss of professional licenses, the right to own firearms, and the right to vote
Arrested for Assault and/or Battery? Talk to Bushway Law Firm by Calling 478-621-4995.
Gregory Bushway is a former prosecutor who has successfully served as a criminal defense attorney in Macon, Georgia, since 2013. Having worked on many different sides of the law, he knows your opponent and will fight for your rights. Tell us about your case today: 478-621-4995