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Assault vs. Battery: How Are They Different?

What is the Difference Between Assault and Battery?

It’s easy to confuse assault with battery or assume they are the same thing. Legally, the two charges are quite similar, and if we believe the movies, people are accused of “assault and battery” as if it’s one crime. Here, will compare assault and battery so that you can have a better understanding of what each one really is when it comes to violating the law.


Both assault and battery are considered crimes against a person as opposed to a crime against property.In Virginia, they are charged and penalized the same. Both crimes are considered Class 1 misdemeanors in Northern Virginia. Penalties include jail time up to 12 months and/or a fine up to $2,500.00. You can also be ordered to have no contact with the person and can be ordered to pay restitution for any out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Assault and battery both have higher levels, known as “aggravated assault/battery.” Aggravated crimes usually involve a weapon. This crime is a Class 6 felony with prison time of one to five years and fines as high as $2,500.

Both offenses can also be elevated to a hate crime. If either the assault or battery was motivated by discrimination, it can be required a mandatory minimum jail sentence of at least 6 months. However, if the assault or battery was motivated by discrimination AND results in bodily injury it becomes a more serious offense and will be charged as a Class 6 felony, with a minimum of six months in jail.

It is also a class 6 felony to assault any law enforcement officer, judge, magistrate, correctional officer, anyone directly involved in providing care, treatment, or supervision of an inmate at the jail or prisons, firefighters, volunteer firefighters, emergency medical services personnel engaged in the performance of their duties in Virginia. If convicted of this offense there is also a minimum sentence of 6 months.

If you were to assault a health care provider engaged in the performance of their duties at a hospital or emergency room or any other medical facility then you will have to serve 15 days in jail and 2 of those days are mandatory.

Assault and/or battery charges at school can also involve more serious penalties. If you were to commit this crime against a full or part-time employee of any public or private elementary or secondary school who is engaged in the performance of their duties, you also will have to serve 15 days in jail, and 2 of those days will be mandatory. If you were to use a weapon or firearm as prohibited on school property while committing this offense, you will have to serve a mandatory 6 months jail.

It is important to note that the law requires that you know or have reason to know that the person is working in a certain capacity as an officer or teacher or medical professional. The facts of your case will be important for your attorney to help determine if there is any way you knew or should have known. An admission by you that you knew would be a very easy way for them to prove this allegation.

Remember, a hate crime is not a coincidence. Prosecutors sometimes use the differences between the alleged attacker and victim to elevate the crime. You could easily find yourself in an altercation with someone, and the differences between you are incidental. If you are accused of a discrimination-based assault or battery, speak to a skilled attorney. It will take an experienced lawyer to demonstrate that the differences between the two people had nothing to do with whatever actions you are being accused of at the time.



Assault is not an act of physical harm, at least not directly. It looks more like the threat or intent of harm. Imagine one person take a swing at another and misses. The intent to harm is there, but the act lacked direct contact. This makes it a crime of assault, not battery.

Other examples of assault include:

  • threatening to harm someone
  • pushing someone
  • spitting in someone’s direction
  • screaming in someone’s face
  • balling up your fist and raising it at someone

To be clear, people can still be harmed in an assault. For instance, a large man gets into a smaller man’s face, yelling at him. The smaller man leans back, afraid, and falls over. The larger man did not directly push the other down, but the other was still harmed by the act. This injury could be used in determining punishment for the larger man if the case can be proven in sentencing.


Battery involves direct physical contact, usually resulting in harm. If you were to punch someone in the face, that’s battery. Even lighter physical attacks, such as slapping or scratching, could result in a battery charge.

Other examples of battery include:

  • kicking someone
  • hitting someone with an object
  • throwing something at someone
  • pulling someone’s hair
  • shooting a laser beam at someone

Since battery involves direct physical contact, the severity of an injury can elevate the crime. Say a fight breaks out, and one man continues to beat the other, who has clearly submitted. The beating continues for some time, severely injuring the victim. Criminal law is concerned with the “intent” of the accused.

In a scenario like this, prosecutors could argue that there was direct intent to inflict severe damage. When battery is taken to this level, it could be charged as a felony such as unlawful wounding, malicious wounding, aggravated malicious wounding, or even attempted murder with more severe penalties and fines.

Why You Should Hire a Lawyer When Facing Assault and Battery Charges

When facing assault and battery charges in Virginia, having an experienced criminal defense lawyer by your side can have numerous benefits. Here are several reasons why you should hire The Law Office of Ann Thayer, PLLC when facing assault and battery charges:

  • Knowledge of the LawAttorney Ann Thayer has extensive knowledge of local and state criminal laws and can use this to craft a strong defense strategy on your behalf. She may also be able to identify weaknesses or inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case that could help reduce or even dismiss your charges.

  • Personalized Attention – She will provide personalized attention throughout your case, making sure you understand each step of the legal process and that all decisions made are in your best interest.

  • Negotiation Skills – She knows how to negotiate with prosecutors and judges. This can result in more lenient sentences, or even dropped charges if negotiations are successful.

If you’ve been accused of assault and/or battery, reach out to our firm today. We are prepared to hear your side of the story, and we may be able to prepare a defense for you. Our number is (703) 940-0001">(703) 940-0001, and you can contact us online.