Dan Murphy
By: Dan Murphy

Among the charges that fall under the heading of “criminal defense,” perhaps no two charges are more confusing than assault and battery. If someone strikes you, linguistically speaking you could say they assaulted you or that they battered you and it means the same thing. But this isn’t the case when it comes to the law.

Despite being similar, the law clearly defines these assault and battery charges in different ways. It is important to understand this difference because pressing an assault charge and pressing a battery charge are both serious business but pressing the wrong one can eat up a lot of time without producing the results you’ve desired. Let’s take a look at that difference now.

What are Assault and Battery Charges?

Assault: The law defines an assault charge as an action which is taken with the intention of causing another person to fear for their life. Therefore, if somebody makes a move towards you as if you hit you then you have been assaulted. In this way, assault is first and foremost about the fear that somebody’s actions generate.

Battery: Battery charges are often combined with assault charges but they are about the physical harm that is done to a person. If somebody made a move towards you as if to hit you but didn’t then it wouldn’t be battery, it would be an assault. But if that same person followed through on their intention and struck you, then the physical nature of the attack makes it a battery. If there is physical harm involved in an assault then it will qualify as assault and battery.

What Are the Different Types of Assault?

There are several forms that an assault charge can take, though each has its own particular elements that need to be present. In Colorado there are:

Third-Degree Assault: A third-degree assault is a class 1 misdemeanor and is unique among the various assault charges because it isn’t a felony. It also tends not to have any battery involved as third-degree assaults are for minor altercations where there was no real physical harm, such as when somebody pushes another person.

Second-Degree Assault: Assault of the second degree most often occurs when a deadly weapon is introduced into the equation. This is a felony charge and it almost always involves causing some form of harm, and therefore battery.

First-Degree Assault: First-degree assault is a very serious charge. It occurs when you commit or intend to commit serious bodily injury to another person. If the victim is disfigured because of the act or have a limb or organ destroyed, it falls under first-degree assault. If there is a high risk of death from the assault, it also falls under first-degree.

Vehicular Assault: This is an assault in which a vehicle is used as a weapon. This can be an intentional act, though an intentional assault with a vehicle is often charged as a first-degree assault because of the high risk of death associated with being struck by a vehicle. But if you are under the effects of drugs or alcohol and strike an individual then this also can be charged as vehicular assault.

Elderly Assault: If the victim of an assault is over sixty or is disabled then the penalty of the assault charge will be significantly worse as the state views an assault on an elderly citizen as an assault on a citizen unable to defend themselves.

Sexual Assault: The consequences of a sex crime can be quite severe compared to a regular assault does because of the sexual nature of the crime. Those who are guilty of a sexual assault will need to register as a sex offender and this status can last for the remainder of their life as a way of warning those around them of the danger they represent.

Aggravated Assault: Assaults come in both simple and aggravated classifications. Aggravated assault represents a more dangerous assault, often an assault with a weapon, in which the assailant has a desire and intent to commit serious harm.

What Are the Different Types of Battery?

Battery charges are unlikely to be lodged alone and instead prosecutors will tend to lodge them alongside an assault charge.

As with assault, there are multiple types of battery:

Simple Battery: Battery is similar to assault in that it comes in both a simple and an aggravated variety. Simple battery is any type of harmful contact. It doesn’t matter how minor the injury is, if there is a harmful physical contact then it is a simple battery. A simple battery is a misdemeanor charge rather than a felony.

Sexual Battery: Sexual battery occurs when a person is touched on their intimate parts without giving consent. This means that it has a wider definition when compared to a rape charge, in which there is intercourse. Sexual battery requires there to be touching involved, compared to sexual assault which can be lodged when there is a threat of sexual battery. Like sexual assault, a sexual battery charge will require the assailant to register as a sex offender to protect those around them.

Family Battery: Family battery occurs where there is domestic violence. If the battery occurs within the home, it is classified family battery and it has a minimum of a year sentence when the assailant is found guilty. The definition of family here refers to any individuals who share a home, as well as romantically involved persons and former spouses who may not actually live in the same home.

Aggravated Battery: Aggravated battery is an upgraded version of simple battery. Simple battery is likely to be upgraded if the victim suffers severe bodily harm, if the attack is shown to be a hate crime or if there is a weapon involved (regardless of whether or not it is actually used in the battery). Battery is also upgraded to aggravated if the victim is a police officer, a child, an elderly individual or a disabled individual.

What Should I Do if I’m a Victim of Assault or Battery?

If you are a victim of an assault or battery then the first step is to reach out to law enforcement. This is done in order to protect you from further harm by this individual. After you are safe, then it is time to consider pressing charges and seeking legal recourse.

However, there is a grey area which happens far too often. When two individuals get into a fight, the individual who won is more likely to get charged with assault or battery. But the confrontation isn’t always initiated by the winner and so an innocent individual gets charged for defending themselves. When that happens, you need to find a good criminal defense attorney. With more than 25 years of experience, Daniel M. Murphy has the skills to help defend you. Call (303) 395-5293 to get in touch today.

Dan Murphy
By: Dan Murphy

Denver criminal defense lawyer Daniel M. Murphy provides clients in the Denver area with aggressive and sympathetic legal representation. He graduated from the University of Denver Law School in 1994 and worked as a public defender before starting his own practice in 1996. He has defended clients accused of the most difficult criminal and alcohol-related charges. He also serves as a Moot Court Judge for Denver-area law students who rely on his mentorship.