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Assault and battery charges: What you should know

Assault and battery charges are serious business -- but the differences between the two aren't always easy to understand.

The more you understand about the law, the better your chances of overcoming these kinds of charges. Here's what you need to know about assault and battery crimes.

What is assault?

Assault essentially means that you have threatened someone in a credible way with actual violence -- it doesn't mean that you have actually touched that person, but the other person does have to have a reasonable fear regarding their immediate safety as a result of your actions.

What's a reasonable fear? It varies by the situation, but yelling, "I'll knock your lights out!" from across the street while waving your fists probably isn't enough to make a reasonable person genuinely afraid of immediate danger. Standing across the street puts you pretty far away to make good on that threat.

On the other hand, if you raise your fist and actually throw a punch while standing right next to that person, you could be guilty of assault even if you intentionally throw the punch wide. Just the act of intentionally scaring the other person could be enough to make the charges stick.

What is battery?

Actual battery requires some form of offensive touching without consent -- even if you aren't necessarily causing serious physical harm. This is an important distinction that many people overlook.

For example, you may realize that punching someone square in the jaw is a form of battery. You may not realize, however, that jabbing someone in the chest with your finger during a heated argument could also be construed as a type of battery simply because that kind of action is offensive to an ordinary person.

Naturally, things are seldom as simple in real life as they are in examples, so it's important to discuss any assault and battery charges with an experienced criminal defense attorney. What constitutes a "reasonable" fear or an actual offensive touching in a given situation can often be successfully disputed.

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