What are assault and battery?

It is so common to hear the terms “assault and battery” said in the same breath that many people believe that this is a single crime, or that these two terms are completely interchangeable. This is not true in the state of Wisconsin: assault and battery are, in fact, two separate crimes.

The reality is that many people use the phrase assault and battery to describe what is actually battery alone. According to FindLaw, assault is best described as an attempt at battery.

What is assault?

In its simplest terms, assault is an attempt or threat to injure another person. It is important to note that contact is not necessary for an assault offense, but a criminal act is. Generally, assault requires the defendant to commit an act that would put a “reasonable person” in fear for their safety.

Most of the time, spoken threats alone are not enough to constitute assault. Instead, the defendant must have committed actions that would put a reasonable person at fear of harm. For instance, waving a baseball bat at somebody may be an assault charge, even if the person with the baseball bat never actually hits anybody with it.

What is battery?

On the other hand, battery does involve some form of contact with the victim. The most common example of battery would be an assailant punching a victim. However, the law may consider other forms of contact as battery, even if the act is not typically associated with violence. for example, spitting on somebody is a form of battery.

It is possible and not entirely uncommon for the courts to charge a defendant with both assault and battery, but these are two distinct charges.