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Difference Between Assault and Battery

unhappy woman suffering from domestic violence

Many people use the terms “assault” and “battery” interchangeably. Under the law, assault and battery are actually distinct terms. In many states including Illinois, assault and battery are wholly separate crimes. Read on to learn about the difference between assault and battery in Illinois, and call a seasoned Chicago criminal defense attorney as soon as you can if you have been charged with assault, battery, or other violent crimes in Illinois.

Assault in Illinois

Assault and battery are distinct crimes, although you might say assault is what happens before the battery. In Illinois, an assault is committed when someone knowingly “engages in conduct which places another in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery.” In other words, assault occurs when the defendant threatens or otherwise puts a victim in fear of an impending physical attack.

Assault does not require any actual physical contact. Nor does assault require that the defendant actually intended to physically harm the victim. A defendant is guilty of assault if they knowingly put someone else in reasonable fear of being attacked.

Battery in Illinois

Whereas assault is triggered merely by putting someone in fear of impending violence, the crime of battery requires actual physical contact. In Illinois, battery requires “insulting or provoking” physical contact, such as shoving someone, or intentionally causing bodily harm to another, such as by hitting, kicking, or choking someone.

To be guilty of battery, the defendant must have intended to physically touch the victim. It’s not enough to prove that they did touch someone, even harmfully, if the touch was by accident (such as if the defendant tripped and fell into another person, knocking that person down). The standard for “physical harm” is quite low, however; even an unwanted poke in the chest can constitute an unlawful battery.

Penalties for Assault and Battery

Assault and battery are serious crimes in the State of Illinois. At base level, battery is punished more severely, but various aggravating circumstances can make the penalties for either crime quite severe. The base crime of assault is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail, probation, community service, and a $1,500 fine. The base crime of battery is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail as well as a $2,500 fine, probation, and restitution for the victim.

Assault and battery can both be punished much more severely. Aggravating circumstances include the use of a firearm or other deadly weapon, committing acts against certain people (such as elderly persons or peace officers), use of a vehicle as an instrumentality, and causing serious bodily harm.

Notably, because assault and battery are separate crimes (putting someone in fear of battery and actually committing battery), an Illinois state prosecutor can charge a defendant with both crimes. If the victim saw the battery coming, and was thus aware of the impending violence, the defendant can be charged with both assault and battery.

Zealous Illinois Criminal Defense Attorneys in Chicago and Carol Stream

If you or someone you care about is facing criminal charges in Illinois, protect your future and your family by seeking representation from dedicated and passionate Chicagoland criminal defense lawyers. Contact the Carol Stream offices of Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker & Newitt at 630-665-9600.

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