Burke Levy, P.C.

Assault and battery are separate violent crimes

Many Massachusetts residents couple the terms assault and battery as if they are one offense. However, they are actually separate violent crimes. Understanding the difference could help if you find yourself accused of one or the other -- or both.

Assault does not require physical contact. In fact, assault actually encompasses the portion of a fight where each party makes threats of imminent harm. The words alone do not make up the assault, however. You would have to back them up to the point where the other party believes you intend harm. If you are yelling, getting up in someone's face or otherwise posturing in a threatening manner, you may have committed assault.

Battery is where actual physical contact is required. If you intentionally touch the other party in an offensive or harmful way without his or her consent, you may have committed battery. You need to know that injuries to the other party are not a prerequisite to a battery charge. The touching itself could constitute the crime in some cases.

The reason that most people say "assault and battery" as if it is one crime is because, in many cases, there are overt threats prior to physical contact. However, each can be charged independently. If you find yourself facing one or both charges, you have every right to challenge them.

The penalties for violent crimes, including assault and battery, can be harsh in Massachusetts. There are defenses to these crimes that may fit your circumstances. In order to be sure, the evidence, along with the circumstances surrounding the charges, requires a thorough review. It will also be necessary to ensure that your rights were not violated once police became involved in the situation. After all of the relevant information is obtained and scrutinized, all of the available options for resolving the charges may be explored.

Source: FindLaw, "Assault and Battery Overview", Accessed on Sept. 10, 2017

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