What Is the Difference Between Assault and Battery?

The terms assault and battery are often used interchangeably, but in Indiana law, they represent distinct criminal acts. Assault is the threat of harm, and battery involves actual physical contact. In many cases, a defendant is charged with both assault and battery. The penalties can vary depending on the severity of the crime.

This article examines the nuances of assault and battery in greater detail. If you or a loved one has been arrested, don’t wait to contact an experienced and dedicated Evansville criminal defense lawyer at the law offices of Verdelski Miller.

Assault: Threat of Imminent Violence

Imagine a clenched fist held ready to strike. This image captures the essence of assault in Indiana: it’s not the blow but the threat.

Assault is the threat of imminent harmful contact. This threat can be conveyed through words, gestures, or even mere closeness to the victim, as long as it puts the victim in fear of immediate harm.

Unlike many states, Indiana’s criminal code doesn’t explicitly define “assault.” Instead, it deals with related offenses that capture the essence of an imminent threat, such as:

  • Intimidation: Communicating with intent to force another person to act against their will or place them in fear (Class A misdemeanor).
  • Criminal Recklessness: Recklessly creating a substantial risk of bodily injury (Class B misdemeanor or Level 6 felony).

The severity of the assault charge hinges on the level of fear provoked and the surrounding circumstances. Raising a voice in anger might be a simple misdemeanor while brandishing a weapon could escalate to a felony.

The key element of assault lies in the defendant’s intent and the victim’s reasonable fear. While mere insults or heated arguments do not typically rise to the level of assault, the focus lies on whether the defendant intended to create a genuine fear of immediate harm and whether the victim, under the circumstances, reasonably felt threatened.

Battery: Harmful or Offensive Touch

If physical contact has been made between the parties involved, we enter the realm of battery. Battery occurs when someone intentionally or recklessly touches another person in a harmful or offensive manner, without their consent. The touch can be anything from a shove to a punch, a slap to an unwanted sexual touch.

Indiana defines battery under IC 35-42-2-1 as “touching another person in a rude, insolent, or angry manner.” This broad definition encompasses a wide range of unwanted physical contact, making it a common charge in scenarios like bar fights or domestic disputes.

Key elements of battery:

  • Intentional touching: Even a slight touch, if intentional and unwanted, can constitute battery.
  • Lack of consent: Explicit or implied non-consent is essential for battery to occur.
  • Offensive nature: The touch must be offensive enough to cause reasonable discomfort or humiliation to the victim.

The intensity of the touch, the resulting injury, and the victim’s vulnerability factor into the severity of the battery charge. A light push might be a Class B misdemeanor while causing serious bodily injury could turn into a Level 5 felony.

Battery charges in Indiana don't require injury

The Overlapping Zone: Dual Charges

In many cases, assault and battery charges are paired together. There are also cases where the line between the two offenses is blurred.

  • Threat vs. Attempt: A verbal threat might constitute assault, but attempting to carry it out could also qualify as an attempted battery, potentially pushing the charges to a more serious level.

Defenses in Assault and Battery Cases

The following are some common defenses in assault and battery cases.

  • False Accusations
  • No Physical Contact: Battery involves physical contact. It’s important to note that injury is not required for a battery charge in Indiana.
  • Lack of Intent: Accidental or unintentional physical contact may not qualify as battery.
  • Self-Defense: The defendant acted in self-defense or defense of others, demonstrating a reasonable belief that the use of force was necessary to prevent imminent harm.

Severity and Penalties: Understanding the Stakes

The severity of assault and battery charges depends on the specific circumstances and the level of harm inflicted. In Indiana, potential penalties range from:

  • Class B misdemeanors: For minor battery offenses, with penalties of up to 180 days in jail and $1,000 fines.
  • Class A misdemeanors: For domestic battery or battery causing bodily injury, with penalties of up to one year in jail and $5,000 fines.
  • Felony charges: For more severe battery offenses involving serious bodily injury or the use of weapons, with potential imprisonment ranging from 6 months to decades.

These penalties highlight the seriousness of assault and battery charges and underscore the importance of seeking legal representation from a qualified criminal defense attorney.

Call an Evansville Criminal Defense Lawyer Today!

Facing charges of assault and battery can be overwhelming. The legal complexities and potential consequences necessitate seeking guidance from an experienced Evansville criminal defense attorney. A lawyer can help you:

  • Evaluate your case to determine the applicable charges and potential defenses.
  • Protect your rights throughout the legal process.
  • Develop a strong defense strategy to mitigate the charges and minimize potential penalties.
  • Negotiate with prosecutors to potentially reach a favorable plea deal.
  • Defend you in court.

Verdelski Miller has over 30 years of experience in the realm of criminal defense. Contact us at 812-842-0998 for a free case evaluation.

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