Across the nation, assault and battery crimes are taken very seriously, but each state has its own definition of what exactly the terms “assault” and “battery” mean and how severely they should be punished. In California, assault is defined as attempting to harm or offensively touch someone, whereas battery is the act of actually harming someone or touching them in an unwelcome or violent way.
For instance, let’s say two people get into an argument. Person A calls Person B a rude name. In retaliation, Person B tries to hit Person A but misses. At this point, Person B has committed assault. They haven’t physically harmed Person A, but they did try to.
Person B then tries to push Person A and succeeds. Now, Person B has committed battery.
This is a fairly straightforward example of assault versus battery. As you can imagine, though, the various assault and battery charges can become much more complex, especially when no one is physically harmed and when the people involved disagree on what really happened.
What Happens Next
What happens after an assault, battery, or both greatly depends on the person who was harmed or threatened and how severely they were hurt. The resulting charge may be a misdemeanor or a felony. As a general rule, the more serious the injury, the more serious the charge.
If the offended party was a civil servant — such as a police officer, paramedic, or firefighter — the charges become even more serious for the aggressor. Their charge jumps from “battery” to “battery on a police officer” or “battery on a peace officer” — both of which are taken very seriously and are often escalated to felony charges.