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Assault vs. Battery: Understanding the Difference

Are assault and battery the same crime or distinct offenses? Knowing the difference is essential, especially if facing accusations of either. Our criminal defense attorneys specialize in handling aggravated assault and battery cases and can provide expert guidance through the legal process.

There is often confusion between assault and battery. However, understanding the distinctions between these two crimes is crucial for your case and its possible outcomes.

This article will define assault and battery, outline the typical penalties for each, and discuss how a skilled defense attorney can support your case. Keep reading to understand better and learn how to navigate your legal situation effectively.

Definition of Battery and Assault

What are assault and battery? The definitions of these crimes vary from state to state; in some places, they are considered a single offense. Here’s what you need to know for the state of Maryland:

Definition of Assault

Assault is legally defined as an intentional act that causes another person to reasonably fear that they will be physically harmed or offensively touched. Physical contact or injury does not need to occur, but the accused must have acted in a way that intentionally caused that fear.

Even if the accused did not intend to cause harm or offense, or if the action was meant as a joke or intimidation, it can still be considered assault.

Although the victim may not need to prove they were afraid, they must have been aware that harmful or offensive contact could potentially occur.

Each case is unique, but the accused’s intentional action must indicate a potential violation of generally accepted social standards regarding physical contact.

Factors such as whether the accused and the victim knew each other before the incident and the jurisdiction’s view on consent can also be relevant.

Assault Degrees in Maryland

In Maryland, assault is classified into two degrees:

First-Degree Assault: This is a felony and can involve intentionally causing or attempting to cause serious physical injury to another person or committing an assault with a firearm of any kind.

Second-Degree Assault: This can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. It includes offensive touching of another person without their consent, even if it’s minor, or intentionally causing fear of imminent serious physical injury. A second-degree assault becomes a felony if the perpetrator assaults a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician, rescue squad member, or any other first responder engaged in providing emergency medical care or rescue services.

The victim does not need to suffer physical injury for an assault to occur in Maryland. Any unwanted touching or putting someone in fear of imminent harm can be considered assault. Words alone typically aren’t assault, but threats combined with gestures or actions can be.

A key purpose of assault charges is to prevent violence. By intervening before serious harm occurs, law enforcement can help maintain public safety.

Definition of Battery

Battery is legally defined as intentionally hurting or offensively touching someone without their permission. Unlike assault, which focuses on the intent and the victim’s perception of potential damage, battery involves actual physical contact.

A victim does not need to be seriously injured, traumatized, or deeply offended for an incident to be considered battery. Examples include being spat on or having hot water poured on you, both of which are highly offensive.

However, battery claims cannot be based on abnormal sensitivity. For instance, giving someone a disapproving glare will unlikely result in a battery case. While it might be considered rude, it does not violate social standards in a way that most reasonable people would find harmful or offensive.

Is There a Difference Between Assault and Battery?

Historically, assault and battery were considered two separate crimes with distinct definitions. However, over time, they have often been combined into a single charge in many places. In Maryland, an assault charge covers both offenses.

Assault typically involves threatening violence and causing fear in a victim. Battery occurs when those threats are carried out through physical contact.

In Maryland, assault charges include both the threat of force and the actual use of force. Therefore, if you commit either offense, you will face assault charges, whether or not physical contact (battery) occurred.

Simple Assault vs. Aggravated Assault

The most severe cases of assault are often classified as aggravated assault or first-degree assault. This usually includes making a physical threat of violence using a deadly weapon or targeting a victim who is particularly vulnerable, such as a pregnant person, someone with a disability, or an elderly individual.

Simple assaults are usually misdemeanors, while aggravated assaults are more likely to be felonies. Aggravated assault can even escalate into charges of attempted murder or manslaughter. When it comes to assault charges, there are distinctions between simple assault and aggravated assault. The severity of the assault determines which category it falls into

Examples of simple assault include:

  • Raising a fist to punch someone
  • Shoving another person
  • Leaving a bruise from a slap

Examples of aggravated assault include:

  • Shooting a gun at someone
  • Attempted rape
  • A caretaker fondling or hitting an elderly patient


Building a robust and evidence-based defense for aggravated assault is crucial because such charges can permanently damage your reputation. If you’re facing aggravated assault charges, working with an experienced defense attorney is essential.

Understanding the Penalties for Assault and Battery

What consequences might you face for assault and battery? Well, it depends on the severity of the offense. The consequences can include going to jail, paying fines, being on probation, having restraining orders against you, and having to pay the victim for any harm caused. The severity of the punishment often corresponds to the degree of the crime committed. For instance, a simple assault might result in lighter penalties than an aggravated assault. Additionally, factors like prior criminal history and the circumstances of the incident can also influence the outcome. It’s essential to understand the potential penalties associated with assault and battery charges and seek legal advice if facing such allegations.

Consequences for Assault and Battery

Incarceration:
Getting sent to jail or prison for assault and battery is standard. Aggravated assault, also known as first-degree assault, could lead to several years in jail or even a life sentence. Second and third-degree assault might result in several months to about four years behind bars. Fourth-degree assault could mean up to 90 days in jail.

Financial Fines:
Assaulting someone can also cost you a lot of money. First-degree assault carries a fine of up to $50,000, while second-degree assault could cost as much as $20,000, and third-degree assault is capped at $10,000.

Probation:
Probation might be an option for first-time offenders instead of jail time. While on probation for assault and battery, individuals may avoid incarceration but will have to fulfill specific requirements, such as attending substance abuse counseling, anger management treatment, staying away from the victim, and paying restitution.

Restraining Orders:
Regardless of whether jail time is involved, the court often issues a protective or restraining order against the guilty party. You can’t contact or try to see the victim, even in jail. Violating restraining orders can lead to immediate arrest and potentially increased penalties.

Restitution:
If the victim suffered physical, mental, or emotional harm, or if their property was damaged, the accused might be ordered to pay for medical treatment, counseling, or property repairs. Sometimes, restitution is determined through a separate civil case, where the focus is more on the victim’s injuries than the accused’s intent.

A skilled criminal defense lawyer will strive to ensure a fair sentence and explore alternatives to jail time, such as fines and community service.

Seeking Defense Against Assault, Battery, and Aggravated Assault Charges

If you’re facing allegations of assault or aggravated assault in Maryland, it’s crucial to take action swiftly to safeguard your rights.

At The Law Offices of Krum, Gergely, & Oates, our team of criminal defense attorneys is here to assist you in constructing a solid defense against assault, battery, and aggravated assault charges.

Our lawyers have extensive experience defending people accused of serious assault crimes. They’ve also done a great job helping their clients, which shows their skill.

Call (301) 840-0080 or schedule online a confidential case evaluation. This assessment will help you figure out your legal situation and give you the confidence to decide what to do next.