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The difference between assault and battery

Any connoisseur of crime shows is likely familiar with the phrase, “you are being arrested for assault and battery.” Because of the prevalence of crime dramas mentioning assault and battery in the same breath, it is not uncommon for people to think that these are the exact same crime, or always occur at the same time.

This is not the case. Assault and battery are two distinct crimes in Alaska. According to FindLaw, assault is directly attempting to injure somebody else while battery must have intentional touching.

What is assault?

A good way to think about assault is that it is an attempt at battery. Assault does not require actual contact, but it does have an act requirement attached to it. Essentially, if the perpetrator commits an act that puts a reasonable person in fear for their safety, the perpetrator is guilty of assault.

Words alone are usually not enough for an assault charge. For instance, if you raise a baseball bat against another person but do not actually hit them with the bat, the courts may charge you with assault, but not battery.

What is battery?

On the other hand, battery does not necessarily require an attempt to harm the victim. Battery requires actual contact in a criminally reckless or negligent manner. This is how it is possible to commit battery, but not assault.

Bumping into somebody on accident, for instance, is not battery even if the victim finds it offensive. The most obvious types of battery are related to kicking or punching somebody. However, something less-obvious like spitting can also constitute battery. It is often wise to obtain counsel to ensure you understand the nature of the charges against you.