Assault vs. Battery

In television, movies, and the news, the terms "assault" and "battery" are often interchangeable or used together in a way that seems like they are the same thing. However, assault and battery have different definitions and often different penalties within the criminal justice system. So, what is the difference between assault and battery? Keep reading to find out.


The legal definition of assault may differ depending on the state and jurisdiction you live in, but generally, assault is defined as the intentional involvement in harmful acts or the threat of harm or offensive contact. The actual act of violence or physical injury does not need to be present for a crime to be considered assault.

Most people think of assault in a sexual context. While it's true that "assault" is often used to describe crimes of a sexual nature, it does not refer to physical acts of a violent sexual nature. For example, a teacher repeatedly makes advances on a student. The student turns them down repeatedly, which irritates the teacher to the point that they threaten to grope the student in front of others if they don't agree to a relationship.

In this example, the teacher assaults the student even though no sexual contact has been made. The threat of harm and involvement in an illegal or obscene act is assault.


Assault is the threat of harm, and battery is the physical act itself. As mentioned in the previous section, assault and battery are often used interchangeably, mainly when referring to sex crimes. However, sexual battery is the sexual conduct itself.

Using the previous example of the teacher and student, the teacher would be guilty of sexual battery if they engaged in sexual conduct without the student's consent. Keep in mind that while battery is often violence or harm, it may also be offensive contact which any reasonable person would find deplorable.

Why Are Assault and Battery Used Interchangeably?

The reason assault and battery are used together is that they often occur together. Assault is the threat of harm, and battery is the harm itself, so anytime a person threatens to hurt or abuse someone else, following through could be an example of assault and battery.

In many cases, the threat of harm results from a history of threatening behavior and intimidation, characteristic of people who are more likely to follow through with their threats. However, it's important to remember that while these crimes are serious and have a lasting impact on victims, some situations are blown out of proportion.

For example, if you are pranked by a group of friends and say, "OMG, I'm going to kill you guys," it is not assault simply because you are making a threat. In this context, you are not seriously threatening harm in a way that any reasonable person would define as assault.

Battery is a physical act of violence or harm and relies more heavily on physical evidence in a court of law. However, if there is sufficient evidence to suggest that a person followed through on a threat, the jury is less likely to sympathize with the accused.

Penalty for Assault in Illinois

Illinois recognizes several kinds of assault:

  • Aggravated Assault: assault with an aggravating circumstance like the severity of the threatened act, the lack of remorse, or a history of prior convictions for similar crimes
  • Assault: the threat of harm without aggravating factors
  • Prima Facie: assault with three components – the person acts, the person intends to cause harm, the action causes the victim to fear an imminent act of injury (the victim fears for their life)

Depending on the specific circumstances surrounding the assault, the penalty could be a misdemeanor with a fine of $1,500 and/or jail time. The charge for aggravated assault can result in up to one year in prison and fines of up to $25,000.

Prior convictions can also play a significant role in sentencing. For example, if you have been convicted of assault before, the judge may enhance the sentence and increase the term of imprisonment.

Penalties for Battery in IL

Battery is punishable as a felony unless otherwise charged by the prosecutor. The punishment for battery is imprisonment for two to five years OR 60 years if the defendant has prior convictions for the same crime.

What To Do If You Are Charged with Assault and Battery

Assault and battery are serious offenses with harsh sentences, jail time, and longer-lasting consequences like the loss of civil rights and freedom. Accusations of assault should be taken seriously regardless of the truthfulness of the claim.

If you have been accused of assault and/or battery, speak to an attorney immediately. The Johnson Law Group has over 100 years of combined experience with criminal cases, including assault and battery. Our attorneys have experience defending clients for these crimes and a successful track record that proves our efficiency and dedication to success.

Contact Johnson Law Group for more information.

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