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What Is Assault And Battery?


If you have been assaulted and need a personal injury lawyer, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with how the law defines assault and battery. Generally speaking, the term assault and battery as it pertains to the law refers to a single event.

While a personal injury lawyer will often be compelled to consider assault and battery as a single event in the context of criminal law, it is actually the combination of two violent crimes. Assault refers to the the intended threat of violence, while battery is the actual physical violence. The two criminal acts are separable and distinct crimes in legal jurisdictions where assault is distinguished as threatened violence rather than actual violence. Under tort law, assault and battery are also seen as separate.

Let’s take a look at the two criminal acts in more detail:

An act becomes the crime of assault when a threat of bodily harm causes fear of harm in the victim. This is often attached to the stipulation of “reasonable fear” to avoid outlandish claims flooding the court system.

Again, there need not be physical contact for an assault to occur. In fact, there may only need to be a reasonable perception of harm by the plaintiff to be considered an unlawful act, even if harm was not even a possibility. This is best explained through the example of someone using a realistic toy gun to threaten someone. If the toy gun is realistic enough to be perceived as a real gun, the assault is very real on the mental level.

Battery is the actual physical assault. A battery may include any willful or intentional violent, painful, harmful, or offensive touching against the accuser’s will. The battery does not have to be the result of direct contact, as long as the person causes the battery.

An act does not have to include physical harm to be considered battery. At first, that may seem puzzling, but take spitting as an example.

How Someone is Found Guilty of Assault and/or BatteryA personal injury lawyer can successfully prosecute someone for assault and/or battery if the defendant lacks what is referred to as “privilege.” The following examples are when a person has legal privilege:

Consent - This may be the most basic legal defense for a charge of assault and battery. Consent is when a plaintiff gave permission to the defendant to inflict potentially harmful contact. If a physical act is an anticipated part of an actively, like in a sport, it is considered consent.

Self Defense - An assault and battery is not prosecutable by a personal injury lawyer if the act is done in self-defense. Someone who is assaulted can use a reasonable counter-assault in order to defend oneself. However, the act must be of logical proportion to the action being inflicted on the individual. That is, if someone pokes you with their finger or throws water on you, you can’t beat them within an inch of their life.

Defending Others - The same criteria applies to defending other people’s well-being.

Law Enforcement Conduct - A police officer can threaten or apply force if it is deemed necessary to follow through with a lawful arrest of a defendant.

Mutually Agreed Upon Fight - The facts may be difficult to sort out, but if it is determined that two people voluntarily entered into a physical conflict, there is little chance that either person could hire a personal injury lawyer and win monetary damages.

Defending Property - Most jurisdictions do not allow privilege to use force that may cause death or serious injury against trespassers unless that person actually threatens death or serious injury. The details vary depending on the jurisdiction. In some cases lethal actions are legal in defending property from theft.

Physical Discipline - Physical actions against children (aka “spanking”) are old-fashioned, but still a fiercely defended right with some parents. In most jurisdictions it is still perfectly legal for parents to use physical discipline. Some jurisdictions still allow teachers to apply forceful discipline with children.

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