Injury law: assault and battery

Offences against health appear in their two forms – assault and battery. Originally, these crimes come from English common law and retain its features in the basis. However, in America they have acquired some peculiarities. This is especially true when we are speaking about aggravations by assaults and batteries.


The distinction between these crimes is drawn by one of fundamental aspect – physical contact of the offender and the aggrieved person. If the accused, for example, waving his fist in front of the latter and threatening to hit him, it is an assault. If the threat turns to action, it is a battery.

According to the common law a slightest touch is enough to reclassify an assault into battery. An assault may be an attempt of a battery and (or) intimidation with causing a battery.


The criminal codes of different states set different approaches to defining the assault. In some, it is a crime defined as an attempt of battery, in others – as placing someone in the state of reasonable fear of suffering a battery, but more often the two definitions are used. Some of the criminal codes do not define an assault at all, while in many other such provisions either do not exist or an assault in them is delineated as a battery. In the last case, the responsibility for the assault as an attempted battery is considered according to the general provisions of attempted acts. As for the assaults in the form of intimidation, they are usually covered by liability rules for threats or intimidations.

Often the assault results in a battery. However, there are cases when a battery (personal injury) is inflicted without an assault, that is without foregoing threats.

Assault charges should be reasonable.

Assault charges should be reasonable.


It must be emphasized, that the two terms are rather conventional, especially the term “battery”, as it can mean a variety of actions and inaction as well.

There are some more or less common features of legislation concerning the liability for the battery.

Firstly, the battery are now generally understood in a different way than before according to the common law. For example, the modern statutes prescribe that one touch is not enough for a conviction of a battery. Usually it requires a bodily injury caused by the accused.

Secondly, only a few states have articles about battery in their criminal codes. These include, for example, Wisconsin and California. There are the states, which contain articles entitled “assault” which is a “battery” in fact, or rather, infliction of bodily injury (criminal code of New York). The refusal of many state legislators from using the term “battery” is positive phenomenon, as the term “assault” more accurately reflects the nature of the act.

Thirdly, the legislation of many states divide a battery into degrees, usually three, like in the criminal code of New York, but sometimes a larger number of degrees are described, such as in the criminal code of Kentucky (four).